Find a Physician

Centers, Programs & Services

Related Documents

Diseases and Conditions
Pediatric Diseases and Conditions
Interactive Tools
Videos
Articles
News
Drug Reference
Health Tips

Health Information

Asthma Attack Triggers

What are the triggers that can cause an asthma attack?

According to the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and other organizations, triggers for asthma include:

Allergens:

  • Pollen

  • Mold

  • House dust or dust mites

  • Cockroach droppings

  • Certain foods

  • Animal protein (for example, dander, urine, or oil from skin)

Respiratory infections and sinusitis:

Infections can cause irritation of the airways, nose, throat, lungs, and sinuses, and can worsen asthma.

Irritants:

  • Strong odors and sprays, such as perfumes, household cleaners, paints, and varnishes

  • Chemicals, such as coal, chalk dust, or talcum powder

  • Air pollutants, such as tobacco smoke, wood smoke, and chemicals in the air and ozone

  • Changing weather conditions, including changes in temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, and strong winds

  • Chemical exposure on the job, such as occupational vapors, dust, gases, or fumes

Sensitivity to medications

Medications, such as aspirin and sulfites, may trigger asthmatic attacks as a result of sensitivities or allergies to them. These medications often include:

  • Aspirin

  • Other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, indomethacin, and naproxen

  • Sulfites used as preservatives in food and beverage

Before giving your child any medication, including over-the-counter medications, talk with your child's doctor.

Exercise

Strenuous physical exercise can trigger an asthma attack, often because of the inhaled cool and dry air. Long-term strenuous activities, such as long-distance running, are more likely to induce asthma.

Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)

GERD, a condition characterized by persistent reflux of stomach acids, is common in individuals with asthma. Symptoms may include heartburn, belching, or spitting up in infants.

Smoke

Tobacco smoke, whether directly or passively inhaled, has been shown to worsen asthma.

Wood smoke from wood-burning heating stoves and fireplaces can release irritating chemicals, such as sulfur dioxide.

Emotional anxiety and nervous stress

Reactions from stress and anxiety can increase either asthma symptoms or bring on an attack.