Asthma triggers

How to identify and avoid asthma triggers


Common symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing, breathlessness and chest tightness. While there is no definitive cause, there are many known factors that can irritate your airways and trigger your asthma symptoms. It can be difficult to work out which ones are specifically affecting you as many of them are common in our daily lives. Keeping a diary to note down when and where your symptoms are occurring can help to pinpoint your triggers.

Common triggers from your environment include:

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Other factors which can trigger your asthma are:

  • Exercise
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Female hormones
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Chest infections
  • Central heating
  • Strong chemicals


How can I find out what my triggers are?

Identifying what triggers your asthma can be tricky, as it could be multiple factors at once. Keeping a record of how often your symptoms occur, what they are and what you were doing at the time will help. Write down as much information as you can: where were you? What environmental factors were at play? Were you hot or cold? At home, work or outdoors? This should help you to identify a pattern and narrow down your triggers.


How do I avoid asthma triggers?

It’s impossible to completely avoid asthma triggers. Environmental factors like the weather, pollution and viruses are out of your control. The best course of action is to make sure you are managing your asthma properly by following your treatment plan. If you have a preventer inhaler, then use it every day as prescribed, even when you feel well. This keeps your airways clear and soothed so that your asthma symptoms are less likely to flare up when you come into contact with a trigger.

There are steps you can take to minimise your contact with common triggers, however.


In the Home

Keeping your home environment clean to minimise dust and mould can help to reduce your exposure to these triggers. Extractor fans and regular cleaning can stop mould from building up.

However, it’s the dust mites that cause sensitivity to dust. The particles are too small to be able to see and it’s impossible to get rid of them altogether.

If you experience a runny or blocked nose, itchy eyes or sneezing alongside your asthma symptoms then this is an indication you may be allergic to dust mites. Keep using your preventer inhaler to minimise your symptoms and keep your GP informed if you feel they are getting worse.



If you are a smoker then the best thing you can do for your asthma and overall health is to quit smoking. Breathing in tobacco smoke is a direct irritant to your airways. Avoiding it will mean you are at a lower risk of experiencing asthma attacks and your symptoms will be easier to manage.



Exercise can trigger asthma symptoms in some people. Rather than avoiding exercise, this is something that you can manage by making sure you follow your treatment plan. Using your inhaler before and after exercise, gradually warming up and cooling down and being mindful of how you feel are all positive steps you can take. Your symptoms are more likely to be triggered in cold weather so you may want to exercise indoors if this is a problem for you.


Mental health

Asthma UK found that 43% of asthma sufferers state stress as a trigger for their symptoms. During periods of stress, your body is in fight or flight mode which causes muscle tension, a racing heart and shallow breathing. This puts extra strain on inflamed airways making you more at risk of suffering from asthma symptoms.

Anxiety can heighten these feelings and cause panic attacks. During a panic attack, you may feel a tightness in the chest and have difficulty breathing which can be dangerous if you have asthma. This can feel frightening especially when your emotions are heightened and overwhelming. Making sure you always have access to your reliever inhaler and knowing what to do in the event of an asthma attack can help you to cope.

If you are struggling with stress and anxiety then reach out and talk to your GP. They may be able to recommend self-help strategies, talking therapy or additional medication.  



If you have an allergy then your doctor may prescribe you with medication to help manage it, or advise a suitable method. If you have hay fever then taking antihistamines will keep your symptoms in check for example. If your allergy is food-related or something you can avoid, then doing so is advisable to minimise your asthma symptoms.

If you’re unsure about what to do or worried about certain triggers then speak to your doctor. They can revise your treatment plan and medication where necessary and make sure you are taking your medications correctly. Good management is the key to keeping your asthma under control so that you can live your life to the full.  

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