Entitlements for People with Asthma

There are 380,000 people with asthma in Ireland. This page provides information on a variety of services, benefits and allowances available for people with asthma in Ireland.

Boy with Inhaler



Entitlements for People with Asthma

There are 380,000 people with asthma in Ireland. It is the most common chronic disease in Ireland. This document provides information on a variety of services, benefits and allowances available for people with asthma in Ireland. Most benefits are not offered automatically, it is up to the individual to apply for them.

For more detailed information on the services, benefits and allowances available, you can contact your local health care staff, local Citizens Information Centre (www.citizensinformation.ie, 0761074000), local health centre (www.hse.ie 1850 241 850), local social welfare office (www.welfare.ie, 1890 662 244) and also revenue (www.revenue.ie ).

The Asthma Society of Ireland (ASI) is the national charity dedicated to empowering the 380,000 people with asthma in Ireland to take control of their asthma. ASI support people with asthma and their families by providing a wide range of high quality information and education services – all completely free of charge. We actively work with health care professionals, industry and government bodies to provide expert information and keep asthma high on the national agenda. For further information visit www.asthma.ie or call 01 8178886.


GP Visit Card

A GP Visit card entitles the holder to free GP services. It does not cover medications but may be covered by the Drugs Payment Scheme. GP Visit Cards are means tested. The same form is used to apply for a GP visit card as is used for a medical card.  Details of the means test can be obtained from the local Citizens Information Centre or local Health Centre.

If you are aged over 70, the GP visit card is available without an income test. If you are under 6, the GP visit cards for children under six is available without an income test also.(In addition to free GP visits, the GP visit card for children under 6 covers specific assessments at age 2 and 5 and care for children with asthma).



Children suffering with asthma deserve to have their asthma well managed so they can fully participate in physical activities and live a normal life. Asthma checks have been shown to improve control of asthma in children. Each asthma check details the severity of your child or children's asthma and involves a review of medications including ensuring that your child is using inhalers correctly. Your GP will advise you on how to improve your child's asthma, including advice on smoke free environment, flu vaccination to prevent influenza and education on what to do if your child's condition is getting worse. A written plan, tailored to your child, will be given to you to help you manage your child's asthma. Asthma checks have been shown to improve control of asthma in children.

How often does my child or children get an asthma check?
Where there is a diagnosis of asthma on a child aged over 2 years, an initial asthma check will be carried out by your GP or Practice Nurse. A further check will be carried out within 3 months of the initial check and every year thereafter until your child or children are 6 years old.

Will I have to pay for medicines prescribed by my GP for my children under 6 years?
The GP Visit Card for children under 6 does not cover the cost of medications prescribed by a GP or hospital charges. If your child has eligibility under the Long Term Illness Scheme, they will receive drugs, medicines, and medical and surgical appliances directly related to the treatment of their long term illness, free of charge. If you don't have a Medical Card you should apply for a Drugs Payment Scheme Card. Under the Drugs Payment Scheme, an individual or family will pay a maximum of €124 each month for their approved drugs, medicines and certain appliances for use by them or their family, in that month. The monthly financial threshold is determined by the Minister for Health.



Girl with toy bear

Asthma Society Supports

Asthma Devices

 There are lots of different types of inhalers and a wide range of other devices you can use to help control your asthma. Using your inhalers and asthma devices correctly is very important in making sure your asthma is controlled. If you use your inhalers or asthma devices incorrectly you may not get the full benefit of your medication and are less likely to control your asthma.

It is important to find the right inhaler device that suits you best. Your doctor can prescribe you a different device if you feel you are not able to use your current device correctly. Some of the different inhaler devices include: metered dose inhaler (MDI), diskus inhaler, turbo-inhaler, easi-breath inhaler and breezhaler. Talk to your GP or doctor about which inhaler you’re entitled to.

For more information log on to www.asthma.ie for free instructional videos on all inhaler devices

A Spacer is a plastic container that is used with metered dose inhaler (MDI) to inhale medication into your lungs. Using a Spacer makes taking your inhalers easier and more effective, and reduces the chance of side effects, such as oral thrush. Everyone should use a spacer with their inhaler, especially children. There are two different types of spacers, Volumatics and Aerochambers. Spacers are available on prescription. Different spacer devices may be available depending on your method of payment. For example, if you have a medical card, you may only be entitled to one generic brand.

All spacer devices are also available on the Asthma Society’s website, at a reduced cost to our members. Call us on 01 817 8886 or visit www.asthma.ie for further information.


Free Asthma Adviceline

The Asthma Society’s Asthma Adviceline is a call back service that is available free of charge to people with asthma and the parents/carers of young people with asthma. A panel of asthma nurse specialists’ provide personalized information, advice and support to callers from across Ireland.

To speak with a nurse, call 1800 44 54 64 Monday to Friday 09:00-17:00 and our reception staff will arrange a call back at a time that suits you. The service operates during the day, at evening time and over weekends as necessary. There is also the option to email nurse@asthma.ie or text ‘asthma’ to 086 0571838.

Adviceline nurses commonly provide information on the following: my asthma - the basics, knowing what to do in an asthma emergency, asthma and allergic rhinitis (hay-fever), asthma in schools, asthma and exercise, asthma and pregnancy and after GP/consultant visit

Information materials are posted or emailed to callers in advance of speaking with the nurse. Calls are booked at 30 minute intervals and callers can request additional call-backs if necessary.  The service and materials are provided in the English language.

Medical Card

A medical card entitles the holder to free GP services, approved prescription medication (*), maternity and infant care services, public health nursing, social work services, community care services, certain dental treatment, Ophthalmic services, Aural (hearing) services and prescribed medical appliances. (* you may have to pay a prescription charge of €2.50 per item up to a limit of €25 per family). Medical Cards are means tested.   Details of the means test can be obtained from the local Citizens Information Centre or local Health Centre.

Everybody is entitled to Outpatient services at a public hospital, and Inpatient service in a public ward in a public hospital. Medical cards maybe issued on hardship grounds even if a person’s income is above income guidelines. Contact your local HSE Office or Citizens Information Centre for advice, information and application form.


Drugs Payment Scheme

Individuals and families without Medical Cards, have to pay the first €144 (this may vary with budget each year) per calendar month of cost incurred on approved prescribed drugs, medicines and medical appliances including medical oxygen concentrators.  Family expenditure covers the nominated adult, his/her spouse/partner and children under 18 years or under 23 if in full-time education. A dependent with a physical or mental disability/illness living in the household who is unable to fully maintain himself/herself may be included in the family expenditure regardless of age.

Contact your local HSE Office, Pharmacy or Citizens Information Centre for advice, information and application form.

Remember: In addition, keep all you pharmacy receipts so as to claim tax relief under Medical Expenses (see Tax Relief).


 European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

Irish residents are entitled to healthcare through the public system in countries of the European Union, European Economic Area or Switzerland if they become ill or injured while on a temporary stay in any of these countries. The affected person must have a valid EHIC card. Contact your local HSE Office or Citizens Information Centre for advice, information and application form. You can download your own EHIC app to your smartphone by visiting http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=559&langId=en


Public Hospital charges

Everybody in Ireland is entitled to a range of public health services either free of charge or at reduced cost. If a person attends a public hospital or stays overnight, he/she may be liable to hospital charges. Medical card holders and certain other groups do not have to pay these charges.

There are several types of hospital charges including Out-patient charges, Emergency Department charges, Daily in-patient charges and Long-term stay charges.

Out-patient and Emergency Department (A+E) Charges: If a person attends the out-patients department or emergency department (A+E) of a public hospital without being referred by a GP, he/she may be charged a standard fee (€100).  This charge is not applicable to those referred by a GP, Medical card holders, people admitted to hospital after attending the emergency department (they will be subject to in-patient/day service charges), people receiving treatment for prescribed infectious diseases or people who are entitled to hospital services because of EU Regulations. Return visits in relation to the same illness or accident are not charged.

Daily In-patient charges in public hospitals:  A person who stays overnight as a public patient in a public hospital is charged a fee per night up to €75 per day up to a maximum of €750 in any 12 consecutive months. If a person is admitted to hospital and under the care of a consultant and not required to stay overnight, a day charge may apply. In-patient or day service charges do not apply to the following groups Medical card holders, people receiving treatment for prescribed infectious diseases, people who are subject to "long stay" charges or people who are entitled to hospital services because of EU Regulations.

Long-stay patients: Charges may be imposed on long-stay or extended care patients in public hospital care, up to a weekly specified maximum. If you have been an in-patient for more than 30 days within the previous 12 months, you will be liable for these charges. This applies to everyone, including medical card holders. Regulations provide for different charging arrangements, depending on the level of nursing care being provided.


Supplementary Welfare Allowance

If a person is sick he/she may be eligible for Supplementary Welfare Allowance. This payment is means tested (it is not a taxable source of income). Also if a person has little or no income he/she may get a Supplementary Welfare Allowance. This is a basic weekly allowance for eligible people. The payment helps to tide people over emergencies and difficult times. It can also be paid if a person’s main social welfare payment does not cover ongoing needs. It may also be paid to help with certain special needs like rent or mortgage interest payments or for urgent/exceptional needs. If a person has claimed a social welfare benefit or pension but it has not yet been paid, and has no other income, he/she may qualify for the allowance while waiting for the payment. In this case, the money will have to be repaid once the benefit or pension comes through.

There are two different types of Supplementary Welfare Allowance payments:

Entitlement-based payments: These are means tested with other specified conditions. The payments include: Basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance and weekly supplements or allowances to cover rent, mortgage, heat, diet and other ongoing needs

Discretionary-type payments: If it is not clear if an applicant is entitled to the payment, the Superintendent Community Welfare Officer and/or Community Welfare Officer can make a decision based on an applicant’s circumstances and using legal guidelines. These payments include: Exceptional Needs Payments e.g. Household goods, Personal costs, such as footwear and clothes, Funerals etc.

Contact your local Social Welfare Office, Health Centre for more information.


College Supports

The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) is a college and university admissions scheme which in some cases offers places on reduced points to school leavers with Disabilities.  Having asthma qualifies for the scheme as it is listed as a long term condition. Therefore, we encourage students and parents to contact the Disability Service within their Third Level College if their asthma is effecting their studies. Once a student discloses their Disability and registers with the Disability Service within their college, depending on circumstances, students with significant ongoing illnesses such as asthma would have a meeting with a Disability Officer within their Third Level Institution.  The purpose of the meeting is to individually tailor reasonable accommodations. 

Under the scheme students with asthma would qualify for both academic and exam supports if they can illustrate their asthma has a profound effect on their educational attainment.

For example, if the student is tired due to medication and side effects of their illness a college may provide them with a LiveScribe pen, where they can record the lectures as they take notes (The Livescribe Echo smart pen allows you to record your lectures, capture your notes, replay them and allows you to send them from your desktop as a standard PDF or audio file.  You can record and playback everything you hear and write. For more information go to the Livescribe website and check out the support videos available on the YouTube channel.) 

To qualify students must meet all criteria for DARE entry. The form has 3 sections as follows:

Section A asks for information on your disability, the supports you received at second level and how your disability impacted on your education. It also asks if you wish to be considered for DARE. Section B is second, to be completed by your school. It provides information about your educational experience and assists the decision about the third-level supports you need. Section C is an evidence of Disability form which must be completed by the accepted Medical consultant or specialist for your particular disability. It provides verification of your disability and helps the decision about the third-level supports that you need.

The impact of the student's asthma on their school attendance and work will be identified. The personal statement of how the illness has affected the student will give perspective in the impact and reflecting the school's statement and the consultant's statement. A range of other supports are available and you should consult your college for further information on these.



Students at college

Warmer Homes Scheme

People with asthma may be eligible for the Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme (BEWH), administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

The service involves the installation of standard energy efficiency measures appropriate to the eligible household subject to SEAI survey, budget allocation and available capacity. The service is provided at no cost to the household and the measures currently available under this scheme are: attic insulation, draught proofing, lagging jackets, low energy light bulbs, cavity wall insulation and energy advice.

To be eligible for the scheme, a home must reach certain criteria. The home must be an owner occupied non-Local Authority home and constructed before 2006. The owner must also be in receipt of one of the following: fuel allowance as part of the national fuel scheme, job seekers allowance for over six months and with children under 7 years of age, family income supplement or in receipt of the "one parent family payment.

For further information please contact the Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme Helpdesk on Freephone 1800 250 204 or email warmerhomes@seai.ie


Tax Relief on Medical Expenses

A tax refund is available for money spent on certain medical expenses over and above a specified amount (as set down in the budget each year). These expenses can be incurred by the applicant or paid by the applicant with regard to family members of any age or any other people aged 65 or over who are incapacitated.

Examples of expenses for which the relief may be claimed include Doctors visits, Medication (including the initial amount not covered by the drugs payment card), supply and repair of medical or surgical appliances used on medical advice, hospital or nursing home costs (including travel). This list is not comprehensive. Keep receipts (for 6 years) and check with your local Revenue Office or Citizens Information Centre for advice and information.

Contact your local Revenue Office or Citizens Information Centre for advice and information.