FactsCan You Join The Military With Asthma

Can You Join The Military With Asthma


Surprising Medical Conditions That Could Bar You From Service

Can You Join The Army With ADHD or ASTHMA?

Its no surprise that service members must be in good physical shape to serve in the military. However, there are some medical conditions that you might not know can bar you from service.

The military lays out certain physical requirements that those wishing to serve must meet, and recruits must undergo a medical exam. When joining, they must also disclose significant medical conditions.

Sometimes waivers from medical professionals are an option for certain medical conditions, particularly ones that relate to eyesight and weight. However, like depression and Crohns disease are likely to disqualify you from service, especially if they have affected your education or employment in the past.

It is important to note that many conditions are not always permanently disqualifying and should not dissuade potential applicants. Recruiters and military doctors will determine if they will affect your duties.

Here are eight surprising medical conditions that might prevent you from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces:

1. Food Allergies

If you have a history of food allergies, you might be disqualified from joining the military. This is because service members can serve in locations that do not have a wide variety of food options or that do not have easily accessible medical care in the case of reactions. Recruits who are merely sensitive to certain foods will not be disqualified.

2. Celiac Disease

5. Braces or dental ailments

6. Motion sickness

Asthma During Military Service

Asthma was one of the most common reasons for medical evacuation during the 1991 Gulf War. Using partial data pertaining to 19951997, Clark et al estimated that approximately 1000 asthmatic recruits per year were discharged from military services with an EPTS reason. A more complete statistical investigation conducted more than a decade later reported nearly 3,000 military applicants being disqualified from military service each year because of asthma. The appearance of acute asthma during military service may necessitate immediate treatment, subsequent military discharge, and possible future medical care through the VA system.

Perhaps, the implication of asthma in the military was highlighted after researchers from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Newport, New York claimed that there was an increased risk for developing new-onset asthma because of U.S. military deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. The concern has not yet been adequately settled.,

Can You Get A Medical Waiver For Asthma

So now lets answer your question is your journey over, or can you possibly join the military with asthma? The answer is: it depends.

The military normally does not allow individuals who currently have asthma to join. However, there can be waivers for those who had asthma in their youth, provided it is still not present when they apply to join the military.

Now your situation is unique. You mentioned you had asthma as a youth, but havent had any issues since then. However, the doctor who recently examined you stated you still have asthma, but that it shouldnt be a problem for military service.

Therein lies the problem: the doctor recommended you as fit for service, and MEPS sent your examination and waiver application to the Surgeon Generals office, where the Surgeon General denied the waiver application.

Obviously they saw something they didnt like, or something that went against military medical standards for applicants. You can familiarize yourself with the DODI, or Department of Defense Instruction for Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Military Services for a better understanding of which medical conditions are excluded from entry to the military, and which are eligible for waivers . This makes for dense reading, but arming yourself with this knowledge is essential if you want to keep trying to join the Air Force.

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Coast Guard Disqualifying Medical Conditions

The U.S. Coast Guard follows the same guidelines as the other military branches.

MEPS is managed by the Department of Defense with the same temporary and permanent disqualifications.

Once again, speak to a recruiter if you have any of the following:

  • PTSD
  • Schizophrenia

However, the Coast Guard is starting to apply more waivers to anxiety and depression than in the past.

Regardless, its still very difficult to receive a waiver for more serious mental health problems.

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Medical Exams And Records

US Military Asthma and ADD/ADHD Policy

When enlisting in any branch of the military, there is a point when you are required to undergo a medical examination as well as a medical record review conducted by subject matter experts.

As a part of your initial application, you are required to declare any medical deficiencies and release related documentation showing the extent of the disorder.

Previously, Asthma was an automatically disqualifying factor when joining the military.

This means that it was not a factor that could be waived meaning no matter what, you could not get in.

With the competition of benefits and pay in the civilian job market and ever-changing politics, branches like the Air Force and Navy decided to find ways to let more people in and essentially raise their numbers.

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Have You Always Been Able To Get A Waiver For Asthma

Getting a waiver is a relatively recent development.

Before 2004, a history of asthma at any age could disqualify someone from military service. After 2004, the cutoff for asthma symptoms after 13 was made when a study of 587 recruits found that a history of mild asthma was not associated with excessive medical care or early attrition from military service.

The military has also acknowledged that the prevalence of asthma is increasing in the general public. By denying entry to a group of potential recruits, the military would be reducing the size of its recruitment pool.

In general, the waiver guidelines and requirements related to asthma are similar across all branches of the military.

Here are some specific rules that you may encounter across different branches of the U.S. military.

Navy Policy On Asthma

OMK spoke with Officer Mendoza, a Navy recruiter stationed in Atlanta, Georgia, about the Navys policy on asthma.

This is what he had to say:

  • It is possible to enter the Navy if you have been previously diagnosed, but it can be very difficult. For starters, if you currently have asthma, it is not going to work.
  • The army has a very strict policy on this If you are currently being treated for asthma, it will not help.
  • Also, any history of asthma after age 13 will require an exemption.
  • The exemption process will take place at your Military Entry Processing Station, or MEPS.
  • Before enlisting, you will be asked to take what is known as a pulmonary function test or PFT.
  • A PFT is essentially a non-invasive test that shows how well your lungs are working.

If you can pass this test, you can join the Navy.

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Medical Records And Exams

When enlisting in any branch of the military, there is a point where you must undergo a medical examination, as well as a review of medical records by experts in the field.

As part of your initial request, you must declare any medical deficiencies and disclose related documentation showing the extent of the disorder.

Previously, asthma was an automatic disqualifying factor upon joining the military.

This means that it was not a factor that could be waived, which means that no matter what, you cannot enter.

With competition for benefits and wages in the civilian job market and ever-changing politics, branches like the Air Force and Navy decided to find ways to allow more people in and essentially increase their numbers.

Adult And Childhood Asthma Phenotypes

“Joining the Air Force with asthma?”

Distinct adult and childhood asthma phenotypes depend upon on the type of airway cellular inflammation and the airway’s unique response to environmental stimuli., Purportedly, the asthmatic child and adolescent are different than adults with asthma., Adult asthma may be predestined in childhood asthma as early allergen exposures and viral infections intersect with genetic susceptibility., Although structural and biochemical dissimilarities between children and adults change over time, the inherited tendency towards respiratory symptoms never disappears.

Asthma’s transformations over time are influenced by its clinical heterogeneity, airway structural changes, unrelenting airway inflammation, persistent airway remodeling, and fluctuating airway hyperreactivity. The age when various airway changes originate or end have not been precisely defined in adult and children. More men than women experience a worsening of their asthma as adulthood approaches. Presently, men predominate in the military services. Particular environmental stimuli, during military deployment, might institute an acute asthmatic attack or initiate a new case of asthma de novo in susceptible individuals.

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How Likely Is A Medical Waiver To Be Approved

Unfortunately, I cannot predict that outcome. I dont play a doctor on the Internet, and Im not involved in the recruiting process, MEPS processes, or any appeals boards. This is not my area of profession and I do not speak for the military. So I dont want to give any false impressions.

What I can tell you is that some medical conditions are simply ineligible for waivers. Other conditions may be waiverable, provided the member meets the medical standards for waivers as outlined in the DODI .

The best thing you can do is arm yourself with the applicable knowledge and have the willingness to do the legwork required to get the medical examinations, file the paperwork, etc.

Finally, dont lie when trying to join the military. It never ends well. In fact, it can end with a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and benefits, or even legal action. Its simply not worth the stain on your record.

For more information, you can read this Guide for Getting a Medical Waiver to Join the Military. This article and podcast explain the medical waiver process and the process for finding information, submitting documents, and much more. Its very helpful.

Relevant Resources:

Are There Physical Fitness Requirements To Join

Yes, there are physical fitness requirements to join the Army. The Armys Physical Fitness Test is used to assess the physical endurance of a recruit. APFT is a 3-part fitness event: 2 minutes of push-ups, 2 minutes of sit-ups, and a timed 2-mile run. Recruits must pass the APFT to graduate boot camp.

The APFT physical fitness requirements vary by age and gender. Reference the table below to find your minimum fitness requirements.

The Army will continue to use the APFT until further notice.


If you have any questions regarding the APFT or your physical fitness requirements, talk to your recruiter.

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Coast Guard Asthma Policy For 2019

OMK spoke with Petty Officer Devoir, a Coast Guard recruiter stationed in Sandy Springs, Georgia.

Heres what he had to say regarding the Coast Guards policy on asthma:

With the Coast Guard, if youre taking any asthma medications it is a disqualifier.

In the Coast Guard, the service person must have spirometer test, and the recruit must get doctors consultation.

The recruit will not be able to do strenuous jobs.

Well update the Coast Guards asthma policy regularly to reflect any changes.

So Can You Join The Military With Asthma

Can You Join The Military With Asthma? Yes, But There

In almost all cases, if you currently have asthma, you will not be able to join the Military, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard. If you have or were diagnosed with asthma after age 13, you may still be able to enlist with an exemption. Before officially enlisting in any of the military branches, you will undergo whats known as a pulmonary function test, or PFT. This test will determine the extent of your asthma and whether it is a disqualifying condition.

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When Could Asthma Be A Problem In Military Service

Yes, if you read older resources. In the past, it was practically impossible to enlist if you had ever shown any signs of asthma, similarly to other conditions like inflammatory bowel diseases or hearing loss. However, unlike these conditions, asthma is generally not a lifelong condition and many individuals grow out of it.

People very rarely grow out of the symptoms of Crohns disease or deafness, so their hopes of joining the military are unlikely to be successful. As such, asthma is not as much of a stumbling block as it once was. As of 2004, recruits who have not shown symptoms since their 13th birthday are not considered to have asthma by military recruitment standards.

In terms of active service, there are multiple situations where an asthmatic soldier might be a problem for his unit. Recent deployments for American soldiers have been too hostile environments dry, hot, and dusty. We also live in a world where weaponry such as smoke bombs and tear gas canisters can be encountered in a warm environment.

These weapons can cause significant breathing issues for asthmatics, so it is not a safe environment for that individual or their unit. Think about it if you start to have an asthma attack in an active engagement, you may not be able to administer your medicine and another member of your team will be pulled out of position.

I Used To Take Drugs Can I Still Join

If you have a history of drug dependence, you will need to provide evidence that you have abstained from the use of these drugs for at least the last 3 years prior to joining the Army.A history of occasional use of recreational drugs wonât stop you from joining, but you must stop using any such drugs before you join.

After joining the Army, you must not use recreational drugs. The Army carries out random, compulsory drugs testing, and you can expect to be tested while youâre in training. If you fail any of the tests, youâre very likely be discharged.

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Policy For Asthma Recruitment

The Department of Defense’s Directive, 6130.03 restated the Physical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment or Induction in the Armed Force that were relaxed in 2004. Recruits suffering from current airway hyperresponsiveness comprising asthma , reactive airway disease, exercise-induced bronchospasm , or asthmatic bronchitis reliably diagnosed and symptomatic since the age of 13 years were rejected from military service. The term reliable equated to a verified history of recurring cough, wheeze, chest tightness, and/or dyspnea existing for more than 12 months and persisting over the prior 3 years. Additionally, there could not be any use of controller or inhaled rescue medications there could not be symptomatic asthma exacerbations requiring acute medical treatment and no use of oral corticosteroid medications. Also, there was a normal reliably performed spirometry obtained within the prior 90 days conducted in accordance with American Thoracic Society guidelines and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute standards. In contrast, recruits with a history of childhood asthma since age 13 years of age but not displaying reliable diagnostic asthmatic-type symptoms were permitted entrance into military service. The choice of 12 months of asthma inactivity seems arbitrary.

Personality Conduct And Behavior Disorders

Asthma in the Military + Letter from a USMC Recruit

The following conditions may disqualify you for military service:

a. Personality, conduct or behavior disorders as evidenced by frequent encounters with law enforcement agencies, antisocial attitudes or behavior, which, while not sufficient cause for administrative rejection, are tangible evidence of impaired capacity to adapt to military service.

b. Personality, conduct or behavior disorders where it is evident by history, interview or psychological testing that the degree of immaturity, instability, personality inadequacy, impulsiveness or dependency will seriously interfere with adjustment in the Army as demonstrated by repeated inability to maintain reasonable adjustment in school, with employers and fellow workers, and with other social groups.

c. Other behavior disorders including but not limited to conditions such as authenticated evidence of functional enuresis or encopresis, sleepwalking or eating disorders that are habitual or persistent occurring beyond age 12, or stammering of such a degree that the individual is normally unable to express themselves clearly or to repeat commands.

d. Specific academic skills defects, chronic history of academic skills or perceptual defects, secondary to organic or functional mental disorders that interfere with work or school after age 12. Current use of medication to improve or maintain academic skills.

e. Suicide, history of attempted or suicidal behavior.

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Skin And Cellular Tissues

The following conditions may disqualify you for military service:

a. Acne, severe or when extensive involvement of the neck, shoulders, chest, or back would be aggravated by or interfere with the wearing of military equipment, and would not be amenable to treatment. Patients under treatment with isotretinoin are medically unacceptable until eight weeks after completion of course of therapy.

b. Atopic dermatitis or eczema, with active or residual lesions in characteristic areas , or documented history thereof after the age of 8.

c. Contact dermatitis, especially involving rubber or other materials used in any type of required protective equipment.

d. Cysts.

Cysts, other than pilonidal, of such a size or location as to interfere with the normal wearing of military equipment.

Pilonidal cysts, if evidenced by the presence of a tumor mass or a discharging sinus. History of pilonidal cystectomy within six months before examination is disqualifying.

e. Dermatitis factitia.

f. Bullous dermatoses, such as Dermatitis Herpetiformis, pemphigus and epidermolysis bullosa.

g. Chronic Lymphedema.

h. Fungus infections, systemic or superficial types, if extensive and not amenable to treatment.

i. Furunculosis, extensive recurrent or chronic.

j. Hyperhidrosis of hands or feet, chronic or severe.

k. Ichthyosis, or other congenital or acquired anomalies of the skin such as nevi or vascular tumors that interfere with function or are exposed to constant irritation.

m. Leprosy, any type.

Why Does It Matter

Being in the Army can be challenging both physically and mentally.Therefore, a history of health problems or the presence of health conditions that usually don’t affect your everyday life, can mean that you’re not able to join, or you might have to wait to join.

You will be sent forms asking about your medical history once you’ve submitted your application.

The medical team assess everyone individually, and make their decisions based on their professional opinion in keeping with prescribed army standards. These standards and guidelines are reviewed and amended regularly.

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