Environmental Asthma Triggers

Managing the environment to reduce asthma triggers

Asthma triggers are different for each person. Studies show that if triggers are reduced or stopped, symptoms and the need for quick-relief meds are lessened. To learn about each person’s triggers, they should notice where they are and what they are doing when their asthma gets worse.

Allergy testing can help a person with asthma figure out their triggers. They can ask their health care provider about whether to have allergy skin testing or blood testing to figure out if there are any allergens to avoid.

A home visit by trained staff can be helpful to find out about asthma triggers in the home. A home visitor can suggest ways to reduce asthma triggers, share asthma supplies, and provide some facts to help manage asthma.

Examples of Triggers Reported by Asthma Patients


  • Pollen from trees, grasses, hay, ragweed
    • Check pollen counts during the high pollen times of spring and fall. A person with asthma should limit their time outside when there is a high pollen count.
  • Mold
    • Too much moisture, water leaks, or floods can lead to mold in the home. Throw out anything that is wet and has mold growing on it or use a household cleaner to clean it.
  • Animals such as cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, birds, rats, mice, etc.
    • If a person cannot get rid of their pet, do not allow the pet to sleep in the bedroom of a person with asthma.
    • If possible, bathe the pet weekly or keep the pet outside as much as possible.
  • Dust mites
    • Use allergen-proof covers for pillows, mattresses, and box springs
    • Wash sheets and rugs in hot water regularly
    • Remove stuffed animals and clutter from the bedroom
    • Do not use down-filled pillows, quilts, or comforters
    • Avoid wall-to-wall carpeting
    • Vacuum cleaners without special air filters
      • Use a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) or low emission vacuum and vacuum weekly
  • Insects such as cockroaches
    • Sweep food crumbs from floors
    • Fix leaks, caulk or fill holes in walls and cabinets
    • Pest control companies can use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques to kill roaches
  • Sensitivity to sulfites, food preservatives, aspirin, or food dyes
  • Food such as nuts, chocolate, eggs, orange juice, fish, milk, peanut butter

Respiratory Infections and Medical Problems

  • Colds, other viruses
  • Flu
    • Get a flu shot each year
    • If a child has asthma, make sure the child gets a flu shot each year.
  • Bronchitis, tonsillitis, or sinusitis
  • Coughing, sore throats

Tobacco Smoke

  • Cigarettes, cigars, pipes- yours or someone else's
    • Do not allow smoking in the home or car of a person with asthma
    • Make a plan to quit smoking
    • Avoid or limit contact with people who do smoke; second hand smoke can also be an asthma trigger.
    • The parent of a child with asthma should not smoke or allow others to smoke in the home/car or near their child. Being around smoke is not healthy for children and could lead to an asthma attack.

Air Pollution

  • Traffic - idling cars, trucks or buses
  • Diesel exhaust
  • Second hand smoke
  • Wood burning stoves/fireplaces
    • Avoid burning wood in the home
  • Unvented gas/kerosene heaters
  • Ozone/smog
    • Check the air quality index (AQI) and stay indoors when the smog index is high.
  • Nitrogen oxides (e.g. vehicle exhaust, and the burning of coal, oil, diesel fuel, and natural gas, especially from electric power plants)
  • Sulfur dioxide (a by-product of burning fossil fuels, volcanic eruptions and poorly ventilated gas appliances)


  • Cold air
  • Weather changes
  • Humidity


  • Especially in cold weather
    • Wear a facemask or cover the mouth with a scarf when exercising in the cold. Do about 10 minutes of warm-up exercises
  • Children with asthma can still take part in physical activities. Following an asthma action plan will help adults help their children prepare for exercise. Children need to have access to their meds to stay healthy and to take part in all activities
  • Warm up slowly before exercising
  • Check the air quality index when planning outdoor exercise.


  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Laughing or crying

Around The House/School

  • Vapors from cleaning products, paint, paint thinner, liquid chlorine bleach
  • Sprays from furniture polish, starch, cleaners, room deodorizers
  • Spray deodorants, perfumes, hair sprays, talcum powder, scented cosmetics
  • Vapors from furnishings (carpeting, cabinets)
  • Insect sprays
  • Incense and scented candles
  • Dust from chalk, wood, flour, latex gloves
  • Engine exhaust from idling school buses and cars

Other Asthma Triggers

  • Being sensitive to sulfites, food preservatives, aspirin, or food dyes
  • Foods such as nuts, chocolate, eggs, orange juice, fish, milk, peanut butter