Treating asbestosis 

There is no cure for asbestosis, as the damage to the lungs is irreversible. However, you can take steps to reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

These are outlined below.

Not smoking

If you have been diagnosed with asbestosis and you smoke, it's very important to stop as soon as possible.

Smoking can make your symptoms of breathlessness worse and significantly increase your risk of developing lung cancer at a later stage.

Speak to your GP for help with giving up smoking. They can advise about nicotine replacement therapies and prescription medicines that can greatly increase your chances of quitting successfully. Your GP can also put you in touch with local support groups in your area.

You can also call the NHS Smokefree helpline on 0300 123 1044 to get more help and advice about quitting smoking.

Read more about stopping smoking.


If you have asbestosis, your lungs will be more vulnerable to infection.

It's recommended that you have the influenza (flu) vaccination to protect against flu, and the pneumococcal vaccination to protect you from the bacteria that can cause serious conditions, such as pneumonia. Your GP can arrange for you to have these vaccinations.

You will need the flu vaccine every year to ensure you stay protected. Most people only require one dose of the pneumococcal vaccine, although additional booster shots may be recommended if your general health is poor.

Long-term oxygen therapy

If you have severe asbestosis, your body may not be getting all the oxygen it needs to function properly. Oxygen therapy may be recommended if you have low levels of oxygen in your blood.

Oxygen therapy is supplied through a machine called an oxygen concentrator, which purifies oxygen from the air in the room and produces a more oxygen-rich supply of air.

This oxygen-rich air is breathed in through a mask or a small, soft plastic tube placed just inside your nostrils (nasal cannula).

You may be given a small, portable oxygen tank and mask, to be used when you're out of the house. This is known as ambulatory oxygen.

It's very important not to smoke when you are using an oxygen concentrator. This is because high concentrations of oxygen are highly flammable, and a lit cigarette or flame could cause a fire or an explosion.


Most people with asbestosis will not benefit from any specific medication for the condition, unless you have another condition also affecting the lungs, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

More severe cases may benefit from medicines, such as small doses of morphine to reduce breathlessness and a cough.

Serious side effects are uncommon, because the dose is so small. The most common problem is constipation, and a laxative will usually be given at the same time to help you pass stools.

Page last reviewed: 22/09/2014

Next review due: 22/07/2017