Asthma Triggers and What to Do about Them


Most asthmatics know the basics of what sets their asthma symptoms off, such as pollen or hay fever. However, many people may not be fully aware of all of their triggers. One person’s triggers can be very different from another’s. Knowing your triggers can help you best avoid them and prepare for an asthma attack.

Besides pollen and hay fever, here are the some of the more common indoor and outdoor asthma triggers, and what to do about them.

Tobacco Smoke

Tobacco smoke is unhealthy for everyone, especially people with asthma. Secondhand smoke often triggers asthma attacks. If you have asthma, avoid smoke-filled rooms, and never permit people to smoke near you or your personal spaces. The same holds true for cigar and pipe smoke, as well as e-cigs and vaping.

Dust Mites

Dust mites are tiny bugs often found in fabrics such as down-filled pillows, quilts, or comforters. To prevent attacks caused by dust mites, use mattress and pillowcase covers to create a barrier between dust mites and yourself. You may also want to remove any stuffed animals or additional pillows. Washing your bedding weekly can help reduce the chances of being triggered. When dusting or cleaning out spaces that haven’t been cleaned for a while, consider wearing a disposable face mask, and always shower and wash your hair when covered after cleaning.


Most people don’t like roaches in their home, but especially if cockroaches and their droppings can trigger an asthma attack. Removing extra water and food sources, especially where food is eaten and crumbs are left behind, can reduce or rid your home of roaches. If you believe you may have roaches – not an infestation (you would know) – contact an exterminator to do a thorough home inspection, especially if you live in a connected home like a townhouse or condo.


Furry pets and their dander can trigger an asthma attack. If you own a pet and can’t or don’t want to give it a new home, be sure to keep it out of the person with asthma’s bedroom. Bathing pets every week and keep them outside as much as you can. Also be sure to dust, vacuum and mop 2-3 times a week. If you are considering getting a pet, seek out those that are more hypoallergenic or ones who need to be clipped vs. those that shed.


Getting rid of mold in your home can reduce the chances of inhaling it, which too often triggers asthma, especially in the very young and elderly. Controlling the humidity in your home can help reduce mold. An air conditioner or dehumidifier will help you keep the humidity level low; just be sure to clean or change the filters often, and consider having your air ducts clean annually. Also be sure to fix any water leaks to prevent mold from growing behind walls and under floors – keeping your gutters clean is an easy way to prevent mold and water damage from occurring.

Stay Synthetic

Soft down comforters, fuzzy wool scarves; who doesn’t love the feel of natural fabrics and fillers? Sufficed to say many asthmatics do not as certain natural materials such as down can trigger attacks. Consider down alternatives and synthetic materials, which can reduce triggers and wash more easily.


Stress too often is a trigger for an asthma attack, and while it’s often hard to reduce every stress in life, there are ways to manage it. Getting enough rest, eliminating toxic people, seeking therapy – whatever works to reduce stress will also help reduce flare-ups.

Food Preservatives

The chemicals that preserve foods can also trigger an asthma attack, especially sulfites that are used in salad dressings and dried fruits.  Stick to whole or natural foods to avoid triggers.

Air Pollution

Outdoor pollution can come from factories, cars, restaurants, even in the workplace. Pay attention to air quality in any areas you may be in.

Fireplaces and Smoke

Smoke from bonfires, burning sage, candles, incense, etc., can cause an asthma attack if too much is inhaled. If you are asthmatic or live with someone who is and love a warm hearth, consider investing in a gas fireplace.

Other Triggers

Influenza (flu), colds, sinus infections, allergies, breathing in some chemicals, and acid reflux and even some medicines can trigger attacks. Physical exercise, bad weather, allergies to foods or additives, fragrances and hyperventilation due to stress or fear can also cause an asthma attack.

Life with asthma doesn’t have to leave you gasping for air; it’s time to breathe easy. Proper diagnosis and treatment will put you in control of your asthma and your life. The experienced respiratory therapists at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine take a multidisciplinary approach – which may include methacholine challenge, peak flow, airway reactivity, and blood testing for allergens. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, call 815-477-7350.

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