Health Library

Health Library Explorer
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A-Z Listings

Understanding Asthma Triggers

Triggers are things that cause you to have asthma symptoms. Some triggers you can stay away from completely. If you can't stay away from a trigger, talk with your healthcare provider about how to control your asthma. Use this sheet to help you know your triggers.

Man holding a small dog.

What are triggers?

Triggers can bother your lungs and lead to asthma flare-ups. Triggers can be different for different people. Common triggers include:

  • Irritants, such as tobacco smoke or air pollution.

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

  • Special conditions. These can include having a cold or the flu or being in certain kinds of weather.

  • Exercise. If exercise is one of your triggers, you can learn how to exercise safely.

  • Emotions. High levels of stress or anxiety can cause a flare-up.

What triggers your asthma?

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


☐ Tobacco smoke (smoking or secondhand smoke)

☐ E-cigarettes

☐ 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


☐ Cats

☐ Dogs

☐ Birds

☐ Dust or dust mites

☐ Pollen

☐ Mold

☐ Cockroach droppings

Other triggers:

☐ Cold air

☐ Hot air

☐ Weather changes

☐ Exercise

☐ Certain foods or food ingredients (such as sulfites)

☐ Medicines such as aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and beta-blockers

☐ Emotions such as laughing, crying, anger, or feeling stressed

☐ Illnesses or other health problems, such as colds, the flu, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), and sinus infections

☐ Other:

Allergies and allergy treatment

People with asthma often have allergies. Talk with your healthcare provider about testing and treatment if you have allergies, or think you have them.

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. The provider then looks at those sites to check for an allergic reaction. This could be redness, swelling, or itching.

  • Blood tests. A blood test can show how sensitive you are to the allergen.

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

There are also medicines that work like allergy shots. These are taken by mouth. Talk with your healthcare provider about treatment options that are right for you.

Online Medical Reviewer: Deborah Pedersen MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2022
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.