The Top 10 Things That Can Trigger Your Asthma

Asthma is an increasingly common respiratory illness. In the United States, about 20 million people have this disease. These people are over-sensitive to things that other people aren't bothered by. While inhaling smoke or entering a dusty room may not bother some people, these actions can cause asthma attacks in others. Irritants are different for each individual. These irritants are called triggers. While the amount of potential irritants is infinite, some irritants are more likely to bother you and millions of other people each and every day.

Here are the top 10 things that can trigger your asthma:


When you inhale tobacco smoke, irritating particles such as tar, carbon monoxide, nicotine, etc. settle in the airways of your lungs. If you have asthma, these particles can cause an attack. Second-hand smoke can be even more harmful to those with asthma because the smoke that burns off the end of a cigarette (or cigar) contains even more harmful particles than smoke inhaled directly from the cigarette. While smoking is harmful for everyone, tobacco smoke has additional harmful effects for those with asthma:
  • Increased frequency and severity of asthma symptoms
  • Decreased effectiveness of controller medicine
  • Increased chances of developing asthma

Dust mites and pests

Dust mites are too small to see but are found in every home. They feed on human skin flakes. You can find them in your pillow, mattress, carpet, clothes, furniture, stuffed toys and other things covered with fabric. Feces and body parts from dust mites can cause asthma in people who are allergic to dust mites. Being exposed to dust mites can also trigger reactions in people who have not previously shown asthma symptoms. Asthma can also be triggered by the body parts or droppings of other pests such as cockroaches. Allergen proteins are found in the saliva and feces of cockroaches. they can trigger allergic reactions and/or asthma symptoms. According to the EPA, cockroaches are usually found in large cities and the southern parts of the United States. Cockroach-related allergens probably have a large influence on asthma in inner-city areas.

Air pollution

One common indoor pollutant is Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). It is created by fuel-burning appliances. This gas can cause irritation in the nose, eyes and throat and make it hard to breathe. According to the EPA, being exposed to low levels of NO2 may cause irritation in the lungs and make children more vulnerable to respiratory illness. Long-term exposure can lead to chronic bronchitis.


Molds are microscopic fungi that can grow almost anywhere moisture is present. To reproduce, molds send tiny spores into the air, which eventually land and begin to grow more mold. Inhaling these spores can cause an attack in someone who is sensitive to mold. While it would be impossible to eliminate all molds in your house, you can control the amount of mold by limiting moisture.


Asthma can be triggered by the urine, dead skin flakes, saliva, feces and hair from your warm-blooded pets, such as:
  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Birds
  • Rodents (this includes pets like guinea pigs and hamsters)
The best way to manage pet allergens is to not allow warm-blooded pets in the house. However, you may also try washing your pet and keeping it out of certain rooms in the house.

Respiratory infections and colds

Like any asthma trigger, infections and colds cause inflammation and make your airways secrete excess mucus. Unfortunately, viruses can multiply more easily in lungs with by asthma than in healthy lungs, which makes the problem worse. Asthma symptoms can also be more severe during a respiratory infection and may not respond as well to your daily asthma medication. To prevent respiratory infections and colds, the Mayo clinic suggests:
  • Stay in shape.
  • Get your yearly flu shot.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Ask your doctor if you need a pneumonia vaccination.
  • Avoid contact with anyone who's sick.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Exercise and Cold air

Some people have exercise-induced asthma. Swimming may also work well for people with asthma because of the moist air and warm environment. Endurance sports such as basketball, distance running, soccer and field hockey, may not be possible for some asthmatics. Sports performed in cold weather like ice skating, hockey and cross-country skiing may also trigger an attack.


People with asthma may be sensitive to certain medications, which can cause asthma symptoms. These medications are the most likely to trigger asthma symptoms:
  • Aspirin and other painkillers. About 10 to 20% of people with asthma are sensitive to these anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Beta-blockers. These are prescribed for high blood pressure, heart conditions, migraines and glaucoma.
  • ACE inhibitors. These also treat heart disease and high blood pressure.
You only have to avoid these medications if you know they are triggers.

Food allergies

When an asthma attack is caused by allergens, the culprit is usually dust, molds, pollen and animals. But sometimes food allergies can also cause asthma. Some foods you may want to avoid:
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Sulfites, a commonly used preservative

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

A person with GERD has a weakened valve in their esophagus that allows stomach acid to flow up the esophagus, which can cause heartburn and other unpleasant symptoms. Gastroesophageal reflux disease can trigger asthma symptoms or make them worse. GERD can be prevented by avoiding:
  • Certain foods, such as spicy foods, fatty foods, caffeine, chocolate, tomato sauce, onions, carbonated beverages and mint
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Eating large meals
  • Smoking

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