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Can you join the Air Force with asthma? You might be one of the numerous people who has wondered this and wanted to join. You probably even heard before you couldn’t join the military with the slightest possibility of it. There used to be strict rules but times have changed and that’s no longer the case.

The Air Force policy loosened in recent years and made it easier for people with slight degrees of asthma to enlist. Now a case by case approach is taken for people with an uncertain history of it. Medical waivers are now granted after passing a methacholine challenge test.

So can you join the Air Force with asthma? Yes, slight degrees of it are allowed.

What Is A Methacholine Challenge Test?

Basically, the methacholine challenge test is to see how reactive your lungs are to environmental situations, whether they narrow breathing airways or not.

During the test expect to inhale doses of methacholine, it’s intended to possibly constrict the airway. First, a baseline breathing test will be done to establish where you’re at. Then incremental doses of methacholine are introduced to the airway to see if any reaction occurs.

This is done multiple times until each dose is administered or breathing ability decreases by 20% from your baseline breathing.

Through doing this a doctor can evaluate and diagnose if you have asthma or not. If all doses are inhaled and the test isn’t stopped early that means it’s an unlikely chance of asthma.

The Air Force considers that good to go and a medical waiver to enlist is granted. If the test is stopped cause your breathing decreased by 20% then the asthma is considered too severe to join the Air Force.

Are There Job Restrictions In The Air Force With Asthma?

Asthma limits airmen from high performance, or routine use of an aviation mask.

So basically all flying duty jobs are off limits, pilots can’t be in the Air Force with asthma. The missile operations duty job ( AFSC 13SXC) are restricted, plus air traffic controllers/ground base controllers. While most of the Air Force policy towards asthma changed, these are some job areas that haven’t. Which is understandable given having a asthma related medical emergency while in air is not a good situation to be in.

On the other hand there are still plenty of jobs to choose from where mild asthma is acceptable. Most of the jobs in the Air Force are none flying jobs.

A review by the Aeromedical Information Management Waiver Tracking System was conducted and the results were pretty favorable. Out of 1,416 cases of asthma or history of asthma, only 356 cases were disqualified from performing their job with it. 80% of the 356 were disqualified cause of their medication.

Advair and albuterol are non-waiverable medications. So this gives a glimpse of reassurance, showing that people can enter the Air Force with asthma. The majority of these cases allowed 1,060 airmen to work within the ranks.

Why Has The Air Force Asthma Policy Changed?

For a number of years, the Air Force was dealing with declining manning numbers across the board. Mainly cause of the sequestration and budget cuts. Lots of airmen left the service to go to school, retired early, or even were forced out from all the cuts to military spending.

This had gone on to the point that it was hurting the capabilities of it’s fighting power. After turning into a noticeable issue, the Air Force started to increase its numbers to bring in larger amounts of new enlistees.

Yet for many reasons, it was a challenge to bring new airman onboard. This lead to loosening enlistment policies like max allowable age, tattoo policy, it’s wavier policy towards asthma and other medical issues.

Now the Air Force is trying to enlist 25,000 new airmen in the next few years, bringing the total manning level to 350,000. All the new policy changes and loosening is how they will get there.

Trying To Enlist After Being Rejected From Air Force With Asthma Before

If your heart was dead set on joining the Air Force before but got quickly disqualified due to mild asthma, now is the perfect time to try again.

You have a stronger chance of qualifying and receiving a medical waiver to enlist now. However, who knows when the Air Force policies will change again though.

Typically when an airman is already serving then policies change, they will be grandfathered in. Meaning the new rules and policy changes will not be enforced on the airman already serving. But it’s only a matter of time till the total manning numbers will be reached and policy tightens again.

General Rule Of Thumb

Now each asthma case is tested and reviewed on a case by case basis, but here is a general rule of thumb to help.

Having a history of asthma before your 13th birthday is waiverable, but a history of it after your 13th birthday typically didn’t allow medical waivers.

This is kind of the old way of thinking when it came towards issuing medical waivers to enlist. As I said before each case is tested and reviewed now. So if you tried to join the Air Force with asthma before, that could be why you got rejected. Now each case could be reviewed more thoroughly instead of based on that general age guild line.

To Wrap It Up

Joining the Air Force with asthma is absolutely possible as long as it’s not chronic.

A simple methacholine challenge test will determine if a medical waiver will be issued or not. As long as the test isn’t stopped early cause of a 20% decrease in your airways you should be good.

Just remember trying to join and be a pilot with asthma is unlikely. It’s the same case for certain missile operations jobs or air traffic controllers/ground base controllers jobs. There are far more Air Force jobs that accept mild forms of asthma than those that don’t though.

So if your thinking about joining for the first time or considering trying to join again, know what you’re getting into with these 50 surprising facts about basic training.

Corey Porter

Corey Porter

Air Force Veteran

Corey is an Air Force veteran and the lead writer at Basic to Blues. He refueled fighter jets as a young airman and deployed twice to the Middle East. Now Corey can be found hiking in the Pacific Northwest.

Who the hell… POL!

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