Let's Talk Triggers

A trigger is anything that causes an asthmatic to have asthma symptoms. Every asthmatic will have different sets of triggers. What sets off my asthma might not necessarily set off someone else's asthma.

Asthma triggers

If you are newly diagnosed as an asthmatic, it is important to become aware of your triggers so you can take steps to avoid them when possible.

Some common allergy specific triggers include:

* Pollen
* House dust mites
* Animal dander
* Mold
* Cockroach droppings

Common irritants that can be asthma triggers include:

* Perfumes (including essential oils)
* Cleaning products
* Air pollution
* Smoke (both fire and cigarette)
* Air fresheners
* Dust

Other common triggers include:

* viral or bacterial respiratory infections
* Strong emotions
* Anxiety/stress
* Cold weather/ humid weather
* Excessive physical exertion
* Acid reflux

If you suspect you might have allergic asthma definitely talk with your doctor about having allergy testing done. It's important to note that if you have allergic asthma, allergies aren't necessarily the only thing that will set your asthma off. Other irritants and triggers can still effect your lungs.

As you start to identify your asthma triggers you will notice that some triggers will immediately set your asthma off, while others not so much. For me, smoke is a huge trigger. Especially fire smoke (bonfire, brush fire etc). One whiff & it immediately has me gasping for air. In 2003 and 2007, San Diego experienced major brush fires that burned hundreds of thousands of acres and made the sky dark & falling with ash for weeks.

I remember my doctors calling me telling me under no circumstances was I to leave my house & to keep all windows closed with wet rags along the bases of the doors to help keep the smoke out. Being a respiratory therapist, it was an "all hands on deck" scenario at the hospitals in town, except for me. I was ordered to stay home. I wouldn't have been much help anyway.

Other asthma triggers

Respiratory infections

Some of my other main triggers include stress and respiratory infections. Every time I get sick my asthma is set off. Currently as I'm typing this I'm recovering from a wicked bout of acute bronchitis that set my asthma off badly.


I have many asthmatic friends who absolutely under no circumstances can be in the same room with anyone wearing perfume or scented body lotion. It will immediately set off their asthma severely. For me, perfume doesn't usually bother my asthma. Certain cleaning products will make my chest tight but not all.

Cold weather

If the cold weather is a trigger for you, make sure to have a scarf over your nose & mouth or nose/mouth mask handy when you are outdoors. It will help heat & add humidity to the air you're breathing.


If stress seems to be a trigger for you, try meditation or relaxation techniques when you feel the stress in your life building.


Physical exercise is a tough one because many asthmatics avoid it altogether because they fear it will cause asthma symptoms or it definitely does cause asthma symptoms even doing easy low resistance activities. If this is the case I recommend talking with your doctor and coming up with a plan to either pre-medicate with your rescue inhaler prior to exercise or getting advice on specific asthma-friendly activities.

In the world we live in its impossible to stay in out happy little "asthma bubble" as I'm sure we would all feel safe in. We never know if we will board an airplane with a service dog or enter a classroom filled with someone's too strong perfume. It's important to have an idea of which specific triggers set off your asthma so you can have a game plan when you encounter your triggers.

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