It’s no surprise that service members must be in good physical shape to serve in the military. However, there are some medical conditions that you might not know can bar you from service.
The military lays out certain physical requirements that those wishing to serve must meet, and recruits must undergo a medical exam. When joining, they must also disclose significant medical conditions.
Sometimes waivers from medical professionals are an option for certain medical conditions, particularly ones that relate to eyesight and weight. However, others — like depression and Crohn’s disease — are likely to disqualify you from service, especially if they have affected your education or employment in the past.
It is important to note that many conditions are not always permanently disqualifying and should not dissuade potential applicants. Recruiters and military doctors will determine if they will affect your duties.
Here are eight surprising medical conditions that might prevent you from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces:
1. Food Allergies
If you have a history of food allergies, you might be disqualified from joining the military. This is because service members can serve in locations that do not have a wide variety of food options or that do not have easily accessible medical care in the case of reactions. Recruits who are merely sensitive to certain foods will not be disqualified.
The Army defines allergies as a “reliable history of a moderate to severe reaction to common foods, spices, or food additives.” The Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps are a little more specific however, defining allergies as reactions with anaphylaxis. Prospective recruits may be able to get a waiver in certain circumstances.
2. Celiac Disease
Similar to the disqualification for allergies, potential recruits with celiac disease may not be able to enlist. The reasoning behind this is based on food availability and the potential for gluten cross-contamination. The U.S. military has a history of being less-than accommodating to food intolerances, which causes some to hide their conditions for fear of being discharged. The good news is the celiac disqualification could be nearing its end as meals ready-to-eat (MRE) makers are providing more gluten-free options.
3. Contact dermatitis
If you’ve ever gotten an uncomfortable rash after contact with certain types of soaps, plants or other substances, you might have contact dermatitis. Because service members come into contact with a variety of substances, you might be disqualified from military service if you have uncontrolled reactions. If the reaction can cause the recruit to be unable to perform regular duties, he or she may not qualify for military service. Recruits with minor, controllable symptoms can request a waiver.
Asthma, only if requiring treatment after a recruit’s 13th birthday, may disqualify an individual from serving. This is a change from the military’s previous disqualification of all candidates with any history of asthma. If the individual carries an inhaler, he or she is likely to be disqualified. Applicants who have experienced asthma after age 13 require medical documentation and may receive a waiver depending on their medical history. To get a waiver, recruits are required to perform a pulmonary function test (PFT). If the recruit passes, branches are likely to let the recruit serve.
5. Braces or dental ailments
While you’re on your teeth straightening journey, your ability to join the military is likely to be limited until all orthodontic fixtures for traditional treatment or Invisalign are removed. Retainers are allowed as long as all dental treatment is completed. Individuals that are allowed to enlist can participate in the Delayed Entry Program if an orthodontist proves that all active treatment will be completed before the recruit is sworn into active duty.
Other dental issues like tooth removal or tooth replacement may cause disqualification if there are potential complications or troubles eating food later on during service. Cavities will not disqualify recruits as long as they are properly treated and filled.
6. Motion sickness
Service members are put in a variety of situations involving moving vehicles. Since motion sickness can be incapacitating, multiple branches list it as a disqualifying medical condition if it continues to occur after childhood. Persistent motion sickness is addressed on a case-by-case basis, and waivers are sometimes possible. Additionally, Army and the Navy aviators can undergo counseling and desensitization that may qualify them for a waiver. Typically, recruits who must take medicine to cope with the sickness are not eligible.
Even though the military disqualifies candidates with motion sickness, there are still service members who get sick. However, there is a new invention looking to combat this in military personnel and civilians. Ototech, a device that is strapped to a headband, tricks the brain into ignoring sensations of motion sickness. The device is still in testing phases.
Though acne may just be a minor annoyance for teenagers and adults alike, it could be the reason a recruit is disqualified from service. Like other medical conditions on this list, acne only becomes a problem when it is severe and disrupts the individual from completing their everyday duties. If the acne is severe and interferes with the individual properly wearing military equipment, he or she would be disqualified. Individuals undergoing treatment with system retinoids like Accutane must be at least four weeks off of treatment.
8. Too tall
While height is clearly not an illness, being over 80 inches tall deserves an honorable mention for being an unexpected reason a recruit may be disqualified. This is typically because of the need to order custom-made equipment and uniforms. Recruits also may struggle with certain jobs if they are too tall.
Male applicants must be between 60 and 80 inches tall and female applicants must be between 58 and 80 inches tall. The Marine Corps is more restrictive and does not accept males of 78 inches tall and females of 72 inches tall.