10 Common Asthma Triggers

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Chris Illiades, MD on November 9, 2021

An asthma trigger is anything that makes your asthma worse. It's easier to manage asthma when you know your asthma triggers. Not everyone with asthma has the same triggers, but knowing about the most common ones may help you identify yours and subsequently avoid them.  

  • Woman with thermometer sick colds flu fever in bed
    1. Upper Respiratory Infections
    A cold, the flu, and a sinus infection can all trigger asthma. These triggers can be hard to avoid. Frequent hand washing can help. So can getting your flu shot every year. If your child has asthma, you should know that upper airway viruses are one of the most common causes of asthma in children under six. Young children get more viruses than adults, and their airways are smaller, making asthma symptoms more likely. 
  • Multiple medicine bottles
    2. Foods and Medications
    An allergy to a food can trigger asthma. Common food triggers include peanuts and shellfish. Lots of common medication allergies can also be triggers. These include aspirin and other drugs that reduce fever and inflammation. Tell your doctor about any prescription medicines and over-the-counter drugs that seem to trigger your allergy symptoms. Don’t forget to mention any herbal remedies and supplements you take.
  • Man breathing smoke out
    3. Cigarette Smoke
    Any kind of smoke can trigger asthma, but cigarette smoke is the worst culprit. Do not smoke if you have asthma. You also need to keep people around you from smoking. Avoid smoke from cigarettes, pipes, cigars, fireplaces, campfires, and burning leaves. Also, smoking cigarettes while pregnant makes your child more likely to develop asthma. If your child has asthma, nobody should smoke anywhere in your home, not even in remote places like the basement or garage. 
  • Pollen
    4. Pollens
    Seasonal allergies to pollens from weeds, trees, and grasses are very common asthma triggers. Do your best to limit the time you spend outside when pollen counts are high. Your doctor might suggest testing to find out what your specific pollen allergies are. Allergy shots and medications that you take when your allergy is coming into season can help you control this asthma trigger.
  • Blue sky with clouds
    5. Weather Extremes and Air Pollution
    Extreme temperatures can cause asthma symptoms. This includes both hot and cold weather. A sudden change in the weather can also be a trigger. Watch out for very cold, very windy, very humid, and stormy days. High winds can carry irritants and pollens into your area. Air pollution can come from smog, fumes and factories. Watch your local weather forecast for alerts about air quality, sudden changes, and extreme temperatures. Avoid outdoor activities on those days.
  • Broom dust and fur ball on parquet floor
    6. Dust Mites
    Dust mites are tiny bugs found in dust. If you are allergic to dust mites, they can be an asthma trigger. An allergy test can tell you if you have this allergy. To avoid dust mites, use plastic covers over your pillows and mattress. Avoid items that attract dust like down quilts and stuffed animals. Wash all bedding once a week in 130 degree water (the hot water cycle). If your child has asthma, buy only washable stuffed animals, and toss them in the wash weekly, too. 
  • dog and cat
    7. Pets
    Dogs, cats, bunnies, mice, hamsters, and birds can trigger asthma if you're allergic to dander and saliva from animals. You can reduce your risk by keeping pets out of bedrooms and living spaces where you spend lots of time. Trimming your pet’s fur won’t help, but giving your pet a weekly bath may help. Vacuum frequently and damp-mop hard surface floors. You might also consider an outdoor home for an asthma-triggering pet if that's a safe option for the critter.
  • Pest control technician using high pressure spray gun with heavy duty gloves on shrubbery
    8. Pests
    Don’t overlook allergies to pests like cockroaches and rodents. Both the pests and their droppings can trigger asthma. Most of these pests are attracted by water and food. Vacuum up all your crumbs, fix all your leaks, and get your garbage bagged and outside. Call an exterminator if you need help getting rid of a pest problem. 
  • mold-on-wall
    9. Mold
    If you're allergic to mold, breathing in mold spores can trigger your asthma. Mold loves humidity. Basements and bathrooms are favorite spots for mold to grow. You can check humidity with a tool called a hygrometer. If it shows humidity above 50%, that's the mold danger zone. Running a dehumidifier can help. So can using the exhaust fan when showering. Clean moldy areas with soap and water and throw away any moldy items as soon as you notice them.
  • Group of people exercising on yoga mats
    10. Exercise
    Exercise is an asthma trigger for some people, especially intense exercise. But, even if exercise is a trigger for you, you don't have to give up fitness activities. Staying active is an important part of staying healthy with asthma. Ask your doctor what activities would be good for you. Also ask if you should use your rescue inhaler about 15 minutes before exercising. Protect yourself by avoiding outdoor exercise when the air quality is bad.
10 Common Asthma Triggers

About The Author

  1. Reduce Asthma Triggers, American Lung Association, http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/asthma/taking-control-of-asthma/reduce-asthma-triggers.html Accessed Dec 26, 2013.
  2. Common Asthma Triggers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/triggers.html Accessed Dec 26, 2013.
  3. Asthma in Infants, Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=8&sub=17&cont=160 Accessed Dec 26, 2013.
  4. What Is Asthma? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/asthma/printall-index.html Accessed Dec 26, 2013.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 31
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.