Triggers for Asthma Attacks

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:


  • pollen
  • mold
  • animal protein (dander, urine, oil from skin)
  • house dust/dust mites
  • cockroaches
  • certain foods
Respiratory Infections and Sinusitis

Infections can cause irritation of the airways, nose, throat, lungs, and sinuses, and may precede an asthma attack.

  • strong odors and sprays, such as perfumes, household cleaners, cooking fumes, paints, and varnishes
  • chemicals such as coal, chalk dust, or talcum powder
  • air pollutants
  • 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, cause up to 20 percent of adult asthmatic attacks as a result of sensitivities or allergies to them. These medications often include:

  • aspirin
  • other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, indomethacin, naproxen
  • sulfites used as preservatives in food and beverage

Before taking any medication, including over-the-counter medications, talk with your physician.


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 most likely to induce asthma, and swimming is the least likely.

Gastroesophageal reflux

GRD, or indigestion, 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.


Tobacco smoke, whether directly or passively inhaled, has been shown to have harmful effects on the airways.

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 are considered to be more of an effect than a cause. They can cause fatigue, which may affect the immune system and, in turn, increase either asthma symptoms or bring on an attack.