Date: 2014-07-31 08:33 pm (UTC)
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
From: [personal profile] melannen
My understanding is that it doesn't really have anything to do with the severity of the asthma as Steve experienced it. It has to do with how society percieved the illness.

He probably wouldn't have been diagnosed with asthma unless he'd had at least one, and probably several, acute attacks, which would probably have been enough to put the fear of God in his family. After that, it would depend on how they chose to deal with his illness. Certainly there were plenty of children with asthma who weren't told not to play outside; there were also plenty who were; and it had more to to with parents' choices than with relative severity. And while it's also quite likely that his asthma wasn't triggered by exercise in particular, they wouldn't have known that - while a modern understanding of asthma was starting to develop in the 1930s, the accepted medical wisdom at the time was that avoiding strenuous exercise was an important preventative for all asthmatics.

So yes, it's entirely possible that Steve's asthma itself didn't cause him any great health problems - as you mention, the fact that he made it through even the scenes we see in the movie is a pretty good argument against it. However, that's not actually all that relevant to the question of whether society would have treated him as if he had a serious health problem. Those are two separate questions.

I do think it's pretty unlikely he would have been confined at home all the time, give the circumstances he grew up in - that's at least partly an artifact of socioeconomic factors. However he would almost certainly have been strongly and constantly cautioned against overexerting himself under the threat of death, and he probably wouldn't have been allowed out in even slightly bad weather, and the neighborhood kids he ran with would have been told the same thing, as would his teachers and any other caregivers, so he'd have spent his childhood being set apart from everyone else because of his health, and not allowed to do the same things they did. And while they didn't have the fat-kid-with-inhaler stereotype then, they did have the skinny-tragic-coddled-invalid one: that's the one Steve would have been fighting.

(I try not to rely on comics canon in this kind of analysis, since MCU has already diverged so widely from it, and since it contradicts itself at every chance.)

...That said, this is mostly me synthesizing a bunch of different sources, so I could have the wrong end of the stick; if you have a good source on the social treatment of asthma in the pre-WWII period I would love to see it.
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