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Applicants with Asthma

Hi All,

I am currently going through my recruitment stage and have experienced issues with my past history of asthma. I am posting this to hopefully help future applicants who are unsure of the requirements and what you will be tested and questioned on. I hope this helps or clears things up!

Before applying to join the RN, I read the Medical Eligibility Page as I thought Asthma would potentially be an issue. It states that as long as you haven't suffered from Asthma, Wheeze, Asthma like symptoms or been prescribed medication for the past 4 years, you are eligible to apply. I knew it had been longer than this for me, but to be 100% certain, I went to see my Doctor and got the information from them. In my case, my last course of treatment was in 1992. (23 years ago) so I started my application.

Just to give you my background on fitness I cycle (road bike) 3 to 4 times per week, ranging from 70 to 100 miles per ride and swim 2 times per week. I have my own Peak Flow Meter and consistently blow 800+ before, during and after strenuous exercise.

After successfully passing my Recruitment Test and Interview, I went for my medical on Thursday 15 October this year. I passed every test without any issues at all, and blew over 800 on the Peak Flow Meter in front of the Service Doctor. I had already kept a peak flow record for 28 days which I took with me (my AFCO Advisor had given me a heads up on this at my first visit). The Doctor was happy with my results and therefore, I had saved myself a 28 day hold up with my application. (I am not saying every service doctor will be as helpful and allow this, but mine was and did). At this point i'm starting to relax and am thinking all's wrong I was!!

As i had clearly admitted to him I had asthma as a child, he informed me that he would have to contact my GP and apply for my medical records. He explained in great detail, that the Royal navy has a strict code in relation to the treatment of asthma, regardless of how long ago it was.

Basically, from the age of 5, if you have ever experienced one of the following, you do not hit the requirements of the Royal Navy's Medical Criteria. Your Service Doctor will then be obliged to inform the navy that you are "permanently medically unfit" for service.

1) You are only allowed to have been admitted to hospital (for asthma) just once, and are not allowed to have been admitted for longer than a 24 hour period.

2) If you have been prescribed a particular type of oral steroid for the treatment of asthma on more than one occasion

The Service Doctor explained that the process of him applying to my GP to getting the results back often takes between 2 and 3 months. As I cant afford to wait this long (due to my age) I contacted my GP myself, explained the Medical Criteria and unfortunately she confirmed that I had been prescribed this medication in 1985, 1986, and 1987. Although this is 27 to 30 years ago I don't think this will make any difference to my application and have resigned myself to the fact that I am highly likely to have my application rejected. After reading the criteria for a Medical Appeal, as I clearly wasn't misdiagnosed or given this medication in error, I clearly have no genuine reason to appeal.

So for all new or potential recruits who have ever suffered from asthma, please be aware that the statement on the initial Medical Eligibility Questionnaire isn't as simple as it sounds. Regardless of your age, level of fitness, however high your peak flow readings are and however long your last prescription was, you have an extremely high chance of being classed as medically unfit if you have been prescribed oral steroids at anytime. Take my advice, and instead just applying, going through the very lengthy application process to be then told you cant proceed any further, do your homework and research and speak to your GP about it. Go and get as much information as you possibly can, then go and ask for advice at your local AFCO.

Good luck to all people applying and I hope this gives you a little more insight into the Medical rq's for Asthma



War Hero
A frequent issue unfortunately. Tragically 195 people died of asthma in the last year stats are available (2013). 45% of those fatalities had been treated previously for asthma but had no prescribed inhalers with them and were considered otherwise fit. This is the reason the Armed Forces are so risk averse.

More on the subject here:
Hi Ninja, thanks for the reply and the link.

Although I understand why the Armed Forces have this policy, its still extremely frustrating!!

As I had asthma as a child, and both my partner and young son suffer from it too, I have done a lot of research on it, including speaking to Medical Professionals and Experts in this field. Asthma comes in 7 year cycles, and the younger you are diagnosed with it, the higher your chances are of growing out of it. Childhood asthma is exactly that, asthma in your childhood! Asthma in adults is far more likely to remain with them throughout their entire life. My GP told my parents that I had a 90% chance I'd outgrow the condition by the age of 14, and I did by the age of 12 (1992). So as i have now gone through 3 x 7 year cycles without symptoms or medication, the chances of me suffering from it again are exactly the same as someone who has never suffered from it.

My argument or point is that other applicants could have suffered asthma from the age of 5 to 30, be 4 years clear of medication, and if they haven't had oral steroids, they are likely to be accepted into service. Yet these applicants are at a far higher risk of it re-occurring than myself, and many other applicants with similar medical backgrounds!

That's why I don't understand the policy? Surely you'd think it would be a standard rule, that if you have ever suffered from asthma, at any age, you are barred from entry?? A 7 day course of steroids 25 years ago can't physically affect me now any differently than another sufferer using a steroid inhaler continuously for over 20 years??

Please don't think i'm being argumentative here Ninja, I posted this to give as much info as possible to other applicants in a similar position. I know i'm going to be rejected and I'm not going to appeal it as i know its a condition of entry that I don't meet, but there are definitely viable arguments both for and against former asthmatics applying for service!!



War Hero
The frustration is appreciated. I agree this information should be more widely known by GPs who carry on treating people who ask for repeat prescriptions unnecessarily.

Truth is those prescribed non-steroidal inhalers into adulthood cannot claim it is childhood asthma either unfortunately, even if four years clear of prescriptions.

No one likes knocking people back or indeed being knocked back, but the list of ailments barring entry is a very long one. The reason for many of the standards applied are sadly as a result of things that have gone tragically wrong previously and, like many medical issues, based on increased risk & probability. Not that it makes it any more palatable unfortunately.


War Hero
Bearing in mind the number of queries on this board about asthma this thread could do with being pinned. Supposing that all the OP's statements are correct that is.


Lantern Swinger
I'm in phase 2 now. I was held back for about 5-6 months while my medical records where being requested. It is quite a ball ache. I know people in now who quite clearly have it but have never had any prescriptions in the past.

One boy in my mess was a diver and got told to change branches (now ETME(SM) ) and still might not be able to do that because he has mild asthma supposedly. Really is a shame.


War Hero
If he has asthma & it is found to be an undisclosed pre-existing condition, it could be a disciplinary discharge. If it's a condition that became apparent within the first 8 weeks of joining, it'll be a medical discharge unfortunately.


War Hero
The armed forces have a tight policy for new entrants, which is fair enough

but then, you see some right states wandering around in uniform - who blantently couldn't walk an RNFT if they tried - puffing on an inhaler.

When I joined up many moons ago, I declared that I had an inhaler (to get over a pretty bad chesty cough) once when I was about 14. The number of hoops I had to jump through to get to raleigh was insane.

I never had asthma, my doctor wrote a letter stating that.
even at Raleigh in basic training, after smashing all the fitness tests and everything else (whilst many other failed/struggled) I was nearly discharged. again, despite my doctor STATING i never had asthma.

the system obviously worked as I have been in many years now. But I still refer to my opening points
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