Serving all people by providing personalized health and wellness through exemplary care, education and research.

Health Source Library
Need something? Call us: 1.800.4BAYLOR(1.800.422.9567)
Text Size

Understanding Asthma Triggers

Triggers are things that cause you to have asthma symptoms. Some triggers you can stay away from completely. Others you can plan for and adjust to. Use this sheet to help you know your triggers.

Man holding a small dog.

What are triggers?

Triggers irritate your lungs and lead to asthma flare-ups. Some examples are:

  • Irritants, such as tobacco smoke or air pollution. These are a concern for all people with asthma.

  • Allergens or substances that cause allergies, like pets, dust mites, or pollen.

  • Special conditions, such as being ill with a cold or the flu, or certain kinds of weather. These differ from person to person.

  • Exercise can trigger asthma in some people. If exercise is one of your triggers, you can learn how to exercise safely.

What triggers your asthma?

Which of these common triggers cause your asthma to flare up? Check all that apply to you.


Checkbox. Tobacco smoke (smoking or second-hand smoke)

Smoke from fireplaces

Vehicle exhaust

Smog or air pollution

Aerosol sprays

Strong odors, such as perfume, incense, or cooking odors

Household cleaners, such as ammonia or bleach





Dust or dust mites




Other triggers:

Cold air

Hot air

Weather changes


Certain foods or food ingredients (such as sulfites)


Emotions, such as laughing, crying, or feeling stressed

Illness, such as colds, flu, and sinus infections

Allergies and allergy treatment

People with asthma often have allergies.  If you have allergies, or think you have them, talk with your health care provider about testing and treatment. Allergy testing can find out exactly which allergens affect you. Types of tests include:

  • Skin tests. A small amount of each allergen is put on the skin. Sites are then looked at for an allergic reaction. This could be redness, swelling, or itching. In general, the greater the reaction, the stronger the allergy.

  • Blood tests. An allergen is added to a blood sample. If you have a reaction, it shows sensitivity to the allergen.

Exposing a person to gradually larger amounts of an allergen can help the body build up a tolerance. This is the purpose of allergy shots (immunotherapy). For this therapy, injections are given over a period of years. At first, you get injections with a very small amount of allergen about once a week. As treatment goes on, the amount of allergen is gradually increased to a certain level. Eventually, you have the injections less often. This therapy can take up to a year to start working. But it can be very effective to manage certain allergies over time.

Online Medical Reviewer: Akin, Louise, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell art team.
Last Review Date: 5/19/2014
© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.