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Asthma: 7 common asthma triggers

What you can do to avoid a reaction

Asthma is a condition whereby your breathing airways narrow due to inflammation and irritation from a physiological or environmental trigger. The narrowing of the airways makes it hard to breathe during an attack. Asthma triggers are different for everyone and finding out what triggers your asthma is an important part of asthma management.

Here are some common triggers that you can be aware in an effort to avoid a reaction.

Air Environment

Weather events, such windy conditions and thunderstorms can be an asthma trigger due to an increased number of inhaled allergens circulating in the air at those times. Poor quality air conditions due to wood fire smoke or pollution is also another common asthma trigger. Even, changes in air temperature and humidity may trigger an attack. If you are susceptible to these conditions, stay indoors with the doors and windows closed during these changes in weather or if the air quality is poor.

Inhaled Allergens

There are many and varied environmental allergens that can trigger an asthma attack. These inhaled allergens include dust, dust mites, moulds, animal hair and pollens. If you suspect your asthma flare-ups are being caused by an allergen you can arrange to have an allergy skin prick test or blood test to help identify your trigger. For more information on how to avoid inhaled allergens refer to page 9 – 11 of the Asthma and your child: A resource pack for parents and carers.

Tobacco Smoke

Tobacco smoke is toxic, containing thousands of chemicals that act as an irritant in your airways and may trigger an asthma attack. Avoid smoking and smoky situations to minimise your exposure to tobacco smoke. E-cigarettes and smoking through a water pipe can also trigger asthma and should also be avoided. If you are a smoker, talk to your doctor about strategies to help you give up smoking.

Exercise, sports and play

Exercise is a common asthma trigger, especially in cold weather. Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and should be encouraged.
To assist in avoiding an exercised induced asthma attack make sure you:

  • do warm-up and cool-down exercises
  • consider taking reliever medication before exercise
  • exercise indoors if the outside air quality is low or pollen count high
  • avoid strenuous exercise if unwell

Colds and Flu

Colds and flu symptoms from a viral infection can cause narrowing of the airways and virus induced wheezing, which could trigger an asthma attack. Getting sick is inevitable but to minimise your exposure, use good personal hygiene and speak to your doctor about getting a flu vaccination. If you are sick, having trouble breathing and worried about your viral induced wheezing, seek medical help.


Anxiety, stress and distress (even laughing too much!) can cause your airways to narrow and trigger an asthma attack. Relaxing breathing exercises can help in these situations. Ask your doctor for advice on breathing techniques.


These triggers are less common but are worth a mention:

  • Food additives – examples of additives that may be an asthma trigger are metabisulphite/sulphur dioxide (220–228), tartrazine (synthetic yellow dye [102]), monosodium glutamate (621), and acetylsalicylic acid (ASA)
  • Medications – tell your doctor you are an asthmatic so they can check for contraindications on prescribed medication.
  • Herbal remedies – consult your health care professional before using herbal medicines, some may trigger an attack in susceptible people.

It is crucial to know what your asthma triggers are so you can avoid exposure as much as possible. It might take a little time to discover what your triggers are and having an asthma action plan in place is important so you are prepared for an attack when they happen.

Your doctor can help you develop your asthma action plan and we recommend regular appointments (every 3 to 6 months) with your doctor to assist in the management of your asthma.

Source: https://www.schn.health.nsw.gov.au/fact-sheets/asthma-and-your-child-a-resource-pack-for-parents-and-carers