Posted 9 May 2020

How to get the right Life Insurance with Asthma

(Author: Daniel Sharpe-Szunko)

Asthma is incredibly common in the UK and can be caused by a number things. It’s good to know which life insurance and travel insurance companies offer the best rates for people with asthma. There’s a lot of things to consider when searching for insurance if you’ve got asthma, so we’ll try to help explain how it all works.

Someone who has asthma can have incredibly mild symptoms or some people can suffer severe and more serious attacks. People with this condition might vary from straight forward to slightly more complex requirements. You should make sure that you disclose the facts about your condition when applying for insurance.

Why are we Asthma insurance experts

iam|INSURED have helped thousands of people with asthma to get the best cover and to save money. Over the past 20 years we’ve developed a great understanding of our customers needs as well as the best ways to get them covered. We know how important life insurance is and especially for people who have a medical condition already.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a very common lung disorder that can cause intermittent breathing problems. The people affected by asthma can be young or older, but it generally first occurs in childhood. It can also develop in later life for adults but this tends to be more rare.

It is known as a chronic lung disorder as there’s currently no known medical cure for asthma. There are a number of treatments for asthma, most commonly people will use inhalers to relieve symptoms.

The cause of asthma is where there is swelling (inflammation) of the breathing tubes which carry air to the lungs. The tubes then become sensitive and can narrow temporarily which can make them irritated.

Some of the things that can trigger asthma attacks are:

  • Allergies (e.g. Dust mites, animals or pollen)
  • Smoke, pollution and colder air
  • Exercise and exertion
  • Cold, flu and other infections

People with asthma will be told to avoid certain situations to help reduce or control symptoms.

History of Asthma

The first record to respiratory distress, categorised as “noisy breathing” was in China in 2600 BC. The Babylonians (Code of Hammurabi) then wrote records of breathlessness symptoms “if a man’s lungs pant with his work.” (1792-1750 BC).

Hippocrates (known as ‘the father of medicine’) was the first person on record to use the term ‘Asthma’. The word asthma comes from the Greek term for ‘wind’ or ‘to blow’ which is for respiratory distress and panting.

In more modern times, medicines to treat asthma in the 1940’s and 1950’s were adrenaline injections and even suppositories. In 1969 the Allergy and Asthma Medical Group & Research was founded. Since then, there has been various medical advances which include inhaled corticosteroids which target underlying inflammation.

What are the different types of Asthma?

There are several main types of asthma which can be identified usually by an allergist. The type of asthma you have will also have an effect on which type of treatment you receive.

  • Adult-onset asthma is as the name suggests, where someone in later life will develop the condition. This is thought to be caused by lifestyle or environment, or can be where symptoms have remained dormant for many years
  • Allergic asthma is generally caused by allergens like pollen, animal fur or dust particles. It’s not necessarily that people with asthma have allergies and not everyone with asthma has allergies
  • Asthma COPD Overlap Syndrome (ACOS) is where someone has both respiratory conditions. A person with ACOS will be treated for both conditions individually
  • Exercise Induced Bronchoconstriction (EIB)affects a surprisingly large number of athletes. This type of asthma is induced by rigorous exercise and can often be management with medication
  • Non-allergenic asthmais often caused by external factors which can include medications, other illness or environmental influences
  • Occupational asthma which is simply where a job has caused the development of asthma, common in construction for example

What are the symptoms of Asthma?

Asthma is a blockage of the airways and causes difficulty breathing which is the same for adults and children. There are common symptoms which are:

  • Breathlessness
  • Coughing fits
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Wheezing when breathing

These symptoms are normal in most people but will be suspected to be asthma if they’re persistent, frequent or occur in response to certain triggers.

What is an Asthma attack?

There may be periods where asthma symptoms are more severe or acute which are commonly known as ‘attacks’. These attacks can develop quickly or can build up gradually over a period of several days.

Severe asthma attacks can include signs such as:

  • Blue fingers and lips
  • Breathing quickly and erratically
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Feeling faint or fainting
  • Tiredness, disorientation and even complete exhaustion
  • Severe coughing fits and tight chest

What to do if you have an Asthma attack?

Someone who’s having an asthma attack or experiencing symptoms should follow several simple steps:

  • Sit up and breathe slowly while remaining as calm as possible (don’t lie down)
  • Inhalers (blue) are to reduce or prevent symptoms from getting worse so take 1 puff every 30 to 60 seconds
  • Call an ambulance(dial 999) if symptoms remain and do not ease after 10 puffs on your inhaler

Asthma statistics (UK)

The following asthma statistics were provided by Asthma UK which is the UK’s leading charities:

  • Approximately 5.4 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with asthma (1.1 million children and 4.3 million adults)
  • Someone will suffer a potentially fatal asthma attack every 10 seconds in the UK
  • 3 people die from asthma attacks every day in the UK
  • Roughly 200,000 people suffer from severe asthma which causes more debilitating symptoms. Generally people with severe asthma will require hospital treatment because normal treatments will not be enough
  • £1 billion is spent each year by the NHS treating and caring for people with asthma
  • 77,124 hospital admissions due to asthma in 2016/2017
  • 1,484 people died due to an asthma attack in 2017

Is it difficult to get life insurance with Asthma?

Generally it can be straight forward to get life insurance with asthma, especially where symptoms are mild to moderate. Most people with asthma in the UK suffer from less severe symptoms and infrequent attacks. Insurance providers will also usually offer cover without needing to see medical evidence from your GP. This means that you should be able to buy life insurance instantly.

Life insurance premiums can vary from insurer to insurer so it’s important to apply to the right provider. Your insurance rates will be based on how good the insurance provider is at underwriting life insurance with asthma. Some insurance companies have better claims experience than others with this condition, so they would offer lower premiums. Underwriting can also change over time so you might find that if you already have cover with an insurer, they may not be the best provider now.

Which questions do life insurance companies ask about asthma?

A normal life insurance application will ask for information about your health and specific questions about any disclosed medical conditions. Modern life insurance applications are interactive so will drill down in to various questions depending on what you disclose.

Some of the standard questions for asthma include:

  • When were you diagnosed with asthma (what age)?
  • Have you been hospitalised because of your asthma?
  • When did you last have symptoms?
  • Have you required any treatment other than preventer or reliever inhalers?
  • Which type of treatments do you need or have you needed?
  • How regularly do you have any asthma symptoms?
  • Has your asthma meant that you were unable to work or needed any oxygen treatment?
  • How many days have you taken steroid tablets in the last 2 years?

You’ll need to have this information handy when you’re completing an application with your adviser. If you’re unsure then you should check to make sure the information is correct rather than guess.

Does Coronavirus (COVID-19) make a difference if I’ve got asthma and need life insurance?

You might find some slight differences to a standard life insurance application during Coronavirus. There’s a chance that you’ll need to answer specific questions about it and it may alter the decision if you’ve had or got symptoms. It’s difficult to say how long the impact will go on for but this is a big point in history as far as life insurance is concerned.

Coronavirus questions (generic) are:

  • Have you been told to self-isolate by your GP or are you self-isolating?
  • Have you tested positive for Coronavirus?
  • Are you currently experiencing any symptoms (e.g. cough or high temperature)?
  • Have you been in direct contact with someone who’s tested positive for Coronavirus?

There are also certain medical conditions which are considered to be higher risk at this time. Some of those conditions include respiratory conditions such as asthma due to the strong links with difficulty breathing. It has been proven that certain medical conditions are classified as higher risk because of how COVID-19 affects the body.

Any restrictions for someone with asthma tend to be at the higher end of the spectrum so more severe cases. If you’re classed as mild or moderate in terms of your symptoms then life insurance should be absolutely normal.

Other potential asthma restrictions for life insurance due to Coronavirus include:

  • Limits to amount of cover being offered (usually £1 million and over)
  • Underwriting limits for people who are higher risk
  • Medical evidence restrictions (only certain insurance providers)

Any limits should be temporary and would be lifted at the end of the pandemic.

Why do I need life insurance if I’ve got asthma?

Life insurance is the same whether or not you’ve got a medical condition or if you’re in perfect health. You should consider life insurance regardless of your health if you’ve got dependents or financial responsibilities (debt). Most people with asthma live healthy and very normal lives so have the same need as anyone else.

The only thing that should be any different for someone with asthma is the questions and disclosures. If you’ve got children or a mortgage especially then you should get life insurance to protect that.

People with medical conditions like asthma are often put off applying for life insurance which is wrong.

How does critical illness cover work with asthma?

If you’re considering taking out critical illness cover and you’ve got asthma then here’s how it works. A critical illness policy will pay out a lump of you get diagnosed with a serious illness like Cancer, Heart Attack, Stroke and other conditions that have an impact on lifestyle.

Anyone with mild symptoms and no impact on lifestyle should have no problem getting critical illness cover. People with moderate asthma symptoms should also be able to get this type of cover in most cases. If you’ve had certain asthma complications then you might need to answer additional questions or provide medical evidence.

Asthma complications that may cause further questions or require medical evidence are:

  • Hospitalisation (overnight or A&E)
  • Substandard control
  • Steroid treatment
  • Number of inhalers used per year

If you’ve had recent issues with your asthma or if you require more intense treatment then there could be restrictions with critical illness cover. As with most medical conditions, if symptoms are more severe or if there are complications then it can have an effect on your application.

Also, if you’ve applied for this type of cover in the past with asthma and have struggled then it’s worth checking the current situation. Things change over time and especially if your asthma has improved then you should check again.

Is income protection available for people with asthma?

People with asthma generally work full time and will usually have the same income protection requirements as anyone else. You should consider taking out cover to protect your income if you don’t get support from your employer or if you’re self-employed.

Generally if your condition is mild to moderate and you’re not experiencing any issues then you will be fine for this type of cover. Most people in this situation should have absolutely no limitations and will be able to get the cover they need. If you’ve had recent issues with attacks or treatment then you may find other questions are asked.

In some rare occasions where the symptoms are more severe or your treatment is stronger, then there could be some limitations. There are other similar products available for people who are unable to get cover through the normal routes. Income protection can be complicated because of the number of options available. Think about what you need and how much you want to pay then try to fit something that fits your situation.

Why do I need specific travel insurance for asthma?

It’s fair to say that asthma is very common and can be extremely mild with very little or no difference to lifestyle. You should still make sure that you disclose asthma when applying for travel insurance so it’s taken in to consideration.

Most travel insurance policies will include a certain limited level of medical cover for expenses. A travel insurance policy for someone with asthma will also make sure that you’re covered for any asthma related treatment whilst on holiday. Asthma is classed as a pre-existing medical condition for travel insurance and you will be asked about it when you apply.

Does asthma affect travel insurance premiums?

Most policies where asthma is disclosed will take in to account the additional potential medical requirements whilst travelling. The level of impact on the cost of cover will depend on how severe, recent and frequent your symptoms are.

There are a number of other factors which will have an impact on cost, such as destination, length of stay and type of cover. You can shop around to find the right cover and often a more specialist company would be better suited because they are more equipped to help.

Are there any potential problems getting life insurance with asthma?

Asthma is very common amongst adults in the UK and insurance providers are used to dealing with this condition. There are over 4 million adults receiving asthma treatment currently in the UK which means that the level of severity can vary dramatically.

It’s fair to say that most life insurance applications where asthma is disclosed are fine, however there are exceptions.

  • Recent hospitalisations is a concern for insurance companies and especially where there has been steroid treatment. If you’ve been hospitalised recently then it’s likely a GP report will be required to find out more about it
  • Medication / Treatmentwhere the levels required are high to manage and control the asthma. For example if you receive high levels of inhaler prescriptions then you might be asked to provide more information
  • Smokers with asthma are considered to be more of a concern purely because of how that can impact your lung capacity and breathing

Even though these things can be considered more of a risk, it’s still very possible in most cases to get cover. If you’ve applied for life insurance in the past and have been declined then it could simply be that it was the wrong company for you or the wrong time.

Asthma awareness events

World Asthma Day is usually at the beginning of May every year and used as a global event to join people together to help raise awareness. The event is supported mainly by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) and National Heart and Blood Institute (NHLB) in America

Asthma Awareness Week is a national event in the UK which is to help raise awareness for children and young adults. The event is held in September by Children & Young People’s Health Partnership which is a major UK charity

Asthma & Allergy Awareness Month is held in May in America by the charity Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)

Asthma charities and support (UK)

Asthma UK
Helpline: 0300 222 5800
Address: 18 Mansell Street, London, E1 8AA

Asthma Relief Charity
Helpline: 01793 524004
Address: Suite 1A, The Shaftsbury Centre, Percy Street, Swindon, SN2 2AZ

British Lung Foundation
Helpline: 03000 030 555
Address: 18 Mansell Street, London, E1 8AA

NHS Choices (Asthma)
Emergency: Dial 111


Asthma UK:

Daniel Sharpe-Szunko