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Asthma Triggers

One of the most important things you can do to manage your asthma is to work with your healthcare provider to identify and minimize your exposure to your asthma triggers.

Triggers are allergens, irritants, or conditions that cause your asthma symptoms to worsen. It’s important to know what triggers your asthma symptoms. Triggers vary from person to person, so you should learn which specific ones affect you. While it may be impossible to avoid every single asthma trigger, there may be things you can do to help. Being able to identify and avoid your triggers is important.

Below you’ll find tips on dealing with various types of asthma triggers. If you are able to reduce your exposure to some of these triggers but you still experience asthma symptoms, talk with your healthcare provider.

Select the triggers below to find out more.

If your asthma is triggered by allergens, you may be affected by one or more of the triggers below. It’s very important to reduce these triggers at home, at work, and everywhere you can.     


Many people with asthma are allergic to the dried droppings and remains of cockroaches.

  • Keep food and garbage in closed containers (never leave food out)
  • Use bait or traps to eliminate cockroaches
  • If a spray is used to kill roaches, stay out of the room until the odor goes away

Dust mites are tiny bugs you cannot see that live in cloth and carpet. Pillows, mattresses, bedding, and rugs or carpet all attract dust and dust mites that can trigger asthma symptoms in individuals who are allergic to dust mites. Some potential things that you can try to do that may help include:

  • Have your house frequently dusted and vacuumed using a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter
  • Encase your mattress and pillows in special dustproof covers
  • Wash the sheets and blankets each week in hot water
  • Keep stuffed animals and toys off the bed
  • Wash stuffed animals and toys weekly in hot water
  • Reduce room humidity to between 30 percent and 50 percent by using a dehumidifier or air conditioner

Moisture causes mold, so getting rid of excess water in your house or workplace may help get rid of mold.

  • Fix leaky faucets, pipes, and other sources of water
  • Clean mold off surfaces with a cleaner that has bleach in it
  • Replace or wash moldy shower curtains
  • Open a window or turn on the exhaust fan when you shower
  • Reduce room humidity to between 30 percent and 50 percent by using a dehumidifier

Some people are allergic to the dander (the flakes of skin), dried saliva, or urine that comes from animals with fur or feathers. Giving up your beloved pet may not be an option, so if your symptoms get worse around your pet, try the following tips:

  • Bathing your dog or cat weekly may cut down on its dander
  • Ask someone who doesn’t have asthma to change your cat’s litter box
  • Don’t allow pets in your bedroom
  • Keep pets outside if possible
  • Vacuum often, ideally using a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter
  • Add HEPA filters to central air conditioning and heating. They may help to remove dander from the air

If you have an allergy to pollen or outdoor mold, allergy season can be tough on your asthma. And if you have multiple allergies, it also can be long. Tree pollens cause problems in early spring, grass pollens strike in late spring and early summer, and weed pollens are active in late summer and fall. While you can't avoid pollen entirely, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about whether the following tips may be helpful depending on your specific allergies:

  • Try to keep your windows closed. If possible, use air conditioning
  • If possible, stay indoors with your windows closed during the late morning and afternoon hours, when pollen and mold-spore counts are highest

Be sure to ask your healthcare provider if you need to adjust how you’re managing your asthma before allergy season starts.


If you have asthma, you may be very sensitive to strong odors or chemicals in the air.

  • If possible, do not use a wood- burning stove, kerosene heater, or fireplace
  • Try to stay away from strong odors and sprays, such as perfume, talcum powder, hair spray, and paints
  • Ask your family members to limit their use of perfumed products

If you have asthma, it’s important not to smoke. Cigarette smoke makes your asthma worse by irritating the airways of your lungs. Smoking may also permanently damage your airways. To reduce your exposure to smoke, try the following:

  • If you smoke and have asthma, the best thing you can do is quit
  • Ask people not to smoke around you. This can be difficult, but it’s really important to speak up and let them know that their smoke is more than just a nuisance to you—it can trigger your asthma symptoms and make them worse, and that is a serious problem
  • If a family member smokes and refuses to quit, ask that person not to smoke inside the house, car, or any enclosed spaces


If colds and respiratory infections trigger your asthma symptoms, try the following:

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about developing an Asthma Action Plan to follow when you start feeling sick
  • Consult your healthcare provider about getting a flu shot every year
  • Get plenty of rest, and drink plenty of fluids
  • Avoid contact with others who have a cold or the flu

Some people find that foods or beverages containing the preservative sulfite can trigger their asthma symptoms. If you have been suffering from flare-ups, take a look at what you are eating and drinking. It may take a while to figure out what foods—if any—trigger your asthma symptoms. The following are examples of foods and beverages that commonly contain sulfites:

  • beer
  • wine
  • shrimp
  • dried fruit
  • processed potatoes

For many years, it was believed that people with asthma should not or could not exercise. Today, healthcare providers recommend that most people, including people with asthma, get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.

Plan and adjust your exercise carefully, under your healthcare provider's supervision.

Follow the suggestions below to help make asthma symptoms triggered by exercise less likely:

  • If your healthcare provider has prescribed medicine for asthma symptoms that may be triggered by exercise, be sure to take the prescribed medicine according to his or her instructions.
  • Warm up by stretching or walking for about 10 minutes before you exercise
  • Consider a cooling-down period as well.

If you are sensitive to cold temperatures, cover your nose and mouth with a scarf when outdoors on cold or windy days.

Stress can be an asthma trigger and may play a role in asthma attacks. While you can’t avoid stress entirely, you can develop ways to help manage it.

  • Try to avoid situations that trigger your stress
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation
  • Exercise is an excellent way to relieve stress; however, it can also trigger asthma symptoms in many people with asthma. Speak with your healthcare provider about creating a safe, stress-reducing exercise program
  • Eat a healthy diet and try to get enough sleep. Both may provide you with more energy for dealing with stress
  • Manage your time effectively so you are not overloaded with too much responsibility. Free up time for yourself by delegating tasks to family members or co-workers
  • Seek social support from friends or family members whenever possible