Asthma triggers explained

A trigger is something which brings on your asthma symptoms. You may find, for example, that being around cats or dust sets your symptoms off. Or it might be pollen, cold weather, or being near someone who’s smoking. What triggers your asthma symptoms may be different to what triggers someone else’s.

Cut your risk from asthma triggers

"It’s impossible to avoid all triggers but you can cut your risk of developing asthma symptoms when you’re exposed to them" says Dr Samantha Walker, Asthma UK. "Latest research highlights two key things you can do to reduce the effect of asthma triggers":

    1. Keep your asthma as well controlled as possible. This means you’ll have less of a reaction if you do come into contact with any triggers. The best ways to do this are:
        • Take your preventer medication exactly as your doctor has prescribed. It is specially designed to work away in the background every day to help reduce your body’s reaction to triggers you meet in your daily life.
        • Use an asthma action plan to help you identify when your asthma needs extra help and what to discuss with your doctor or asthma nurse. 
        • Get your asthma reviewed regularly, so you and your GP or asthma nurse can make sure the medicines you’re taking are doing the best possible job for you.
    2. Get to know which triggers affect you. Get advice on how to identify your triggers. At your asthma review, speak to your GP or asthma nurse about how to manage them. Then use what you know to be prepared.
        • For example if cold air triggers your asthma try putting a scarf over your mouth and nose when you go from a warm house out into the cold air. 
        • If you know you react to dust or animals and you’re visiting a dusty house or someone with a pet, as well as taking your regular preventer inhaler morning and evening, ask your GP or asthma nurse about other medicines you might be able to take such as a steroid nasal spray or antihistamine.
Asthma Triggers: Expert Advice  Asthma Triggers: Expert Advice

Identify your asthma triggers with expert advice from Asthma UK’s Clinical Lead.

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Air pollutants Air pollutants

The air we breathe contains lots of different particles that can trigger asthma symptoms.

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Sinister kitty!  Animals & Pets

Furry and feathery animals are a common trigger of asthma symptoms.

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Cold and viral infections Colds & viral infections

Colds and viral infections are very common triggers of asthma. They are also almost impossible to avoid.

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Asthma and emotions  Stress & Emotions

Stress or even a fit of laughter can trigger asthma symptoms, as can depression, financial problems, bereavement and extreme work-related stress.

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Exercise and asthma Exercise

Some people with asthma find that exercise triggers their asthma symptoms. However, exercise is good for everyone, including people with asthma.

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Food and asthma  Food

Most people with asthma do not have to follow a special diet. But, in some cases, certain foods, including cow's milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, yeast products, nuts, and some food colourings and preservatives, can make symptoms worse.

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Hormones and asthma Hormones

Some women find their asthma can be affected around puberty, before their periods, during pregnancy and during menopause.

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House dust mites  House dust mites

Many people with asthma are sensitive to the droppings of house-dust mites. These are tiny creatures that live in the dust that builds up around the house, in carpets, bedding, soft furnishings and soft toys.

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Healthy indoor environments for asthma Indoor environment

There are a number of things in your home that might trigger your asthma, and if you know what these are you can take steps to avoid them so that you reduce the risk of having asthma symptoms and asthma attacks.

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Medicines  Medicines

Some medicines that are used to treat a range of conditions can lead to asthma attacks in a small number of people.

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Moulds and fungi Moulds & fungi

Moulds release tiny seeds called spores into the air, which can trigger asthma symptoms in some people.

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Pollen and asthma  Pollen

Pollen can trigger asthma symptoms in some people. Pollen is a powder-like substance produced by certain types of trees, grasses, weeds and flowers.

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Salicylates Salicylates

Salicylate sensitivity is a reaction that causes symptoms similar to those of an allergic reaction, but it is not a true allergy in the strict medical sense.

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Sex and asthma  Sex

If you're concerned about your asthma symptoms becoming worse during sex, you can control your symptoms as you would with any form of exercise.

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Cigarettes Smoke and smoking

Smoking is dangerous for everyone, but particularly for people with asthma. It can irritate the lungs and bring on asthma symptoms. It can be very difficult if you are exposed to any other kind of smoke regularly as we know that barbecue, bonfire or chimney smoke can be a trigger for asthma and make asthma symptoms worse.

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Lightning strike  Weather

Cold air, a sudden change in temperature, windy or hot, humid days and poor air quality are all known triggers for asthma.

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