Common Asthma Triggers

Asthma attacks start when the airways (lungs) are bothered by something. These things are called asthma triggers.

Each child’s triggers are different. Ask for a written asthma plan from your child’s doctor to learn how to control asthma and avoid triggers. 

Tips to Avoid and Manage Triggers

  • Smoke

      Smoke is the most common trigger for an asthma attack.

      - Avoid being close to smoke from cigarettes, pipes, cigars, fireplaces, grills and burning wood.

      - Do not allow smoke in the home, care or near your child.

      - Children with asthma who are exposed to secondhand smoke have more symptoms and have asthma attacks more often than other kids with asthma.

      One of the best things you can do for your health and the health of your children is to quit smoking. When you are ready, you do not have to do it alone. 

      Resources

      Georgia Quitline
      English: 1-877-270-STOP (1-877-270-7867)
      En Español: 1-877-2NO-FUME (1-877-266-3683)
      Hearing Impaired: 1-877-777-6534

      U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

      American Lung Association Freedom from Smoking program

  • Colds and Flu

      - Practice good handwashing to help prevent colds and illness.

      - Encourage people who are around you and your children to also practice good handwashing.

      - Children age 6 months and older with asthma and people who care for children with asthma should get a flu shot every year. The best defense against the flu is to get a flu shot for yourself and your child.

      - Recognize early symptoms (like runny nose, cough). Start medications as soon as those symptoms begin. Continue medications as prescribed for 24 hours after symptoms have stopped.

  • Exercise

      Being active is important to staying healthy. Even though exercise is a common asthma trigger, your child should not limit his participation in sports or exercise unless directed by a physician. Exercise is good for your lungs, even with asthma.

      - Pre-treat with your child’s quick-relief inhaler with a spacer 15 to 20 minutes before exercise if that is part of his asthma action plan.

      - Talk to your child’s doctor about preventing asthma attacks during exercise, sports or gym class.

      - Exercise indoors when smog or pollen levels are high or in cold weather.

      - Take the time to warm up and cool down. 

  • Weather

      Rain, wind, cold temperatures and sudden weather changes can trigger an asthma attack. The most challenging time of year is when summer is turning to fall.

      - Be prepared for cooler weather and dress your child appropriately.

      - Have your child wear a scarf over his mouth and nose when it is cold outside.

      - Keep consistent temperatures indoors.

  • Pets/Animals

      Pets that have fur or feathers often cause allergy troubles. If your child is allergic to animal dander (the skin of the animal), we recommend that you:

      - Keep pets out of the bedroom and classroom.

      - Keep pets outdoors if possible.

      - Keep pets away from furniture, carpet and stuffed toys.

      - Bathe pets weekly.

      - Vacuum carpets and rugs often. A HEPA filter vacuum works best.

      - Use a good quality filter in your HVAC, or air conditioning system, rating MPR 1000 or higher.

      - Replace or clean filters every three to six months.

  • Roaches and Pests

      Some people are very allergic to the substance that roaches and pests leave behind. Roaches are very common in warm climates and in the homes of people living in the city. To avoid contact with roaches:

      - Use roach traps or gels or a professional exterminator.

      - Store food in airtight containers.

      - Clean all food crumbs and spills right away.

      - Keep lids on trash cans.

      - Clean counters, sinks, tables and floors.

  • Odors

      Do not spray or use products with strong odors near your child. Avoid perfumes, air fresheners, cleaning products, art supplies and paint.

  • Molds
  • Dust Mites

      These are tiny bugs you cannot see that can live anywhere. You can decrease exposure to dust mites by:

      - Washing sheets and blankets in hot water each week.

      - Putting dust-proof allergy covers on mattresses and pillows; can be purchased online or at retail stores.

      - Keeping stuffed toys off the bed. If your child insists on sleeping with a stuffed toy, wash it in hot water every week.

      - Keeping furniture clean at home and school.

      - Vacuuming carpets and rugs often. A HEPA filter vacuum works best.

      - Using a good quality filter in your HVAC, or air conditioning system, rating MPR 1000 or higher.

      - Replacing or cleaning filters every three to six months.

      - Using wood or vinyl flooring if possible.

      - Avoiding the use of humidifiers. Dust mites grow best in high humidity. Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity in the home less than 50 percent.

      Finding out your indoor humidity level

  • Air Pollution
  • Pollens/Seasonal Allergies

      Severe allergies can trigger an asthma attack.

      - If you suspect your child suffers from seasonal allergies, request allergy testing to help identify their specific allergies.

      - If your child is allergic to pollen, keep all car/house windows closed and use the air conditioning during pollen season.

      - Be aware when the pollen count is high. Your child may need pretreatment before playing outside on high pollen days.

      Talk to your doctor about whether or not immunotherapy, or allergy shots, would help your child.

  • Strong Emotions/Stress

      Every day comes with its ups and down. It’s normal to feel strong emotions and stress at different times. It’s impossible to avoid stress completely.

      Remember that strong emotions, such as laughing or crying, feeling stressed or anxious, anger or fear can increase rapid breathing and trigger asthma symptoms. Stress, both personal and work-related, can be a major trigger as well.

      There are ways your child can learn to better manage their emotions and stress.

      - Deep breathing and other relaxation techniques might help.

      - Talk to your child’s doctor about your concerns or find a local counselor or other behavioral health professional.

  • Exposure to Violence

      Exposure to violence can trigger an asthma attack. The best way to help children is to make sure that they feel safe in their home, school and community. Some ways you can help your children feel safe are:

      - Keeping a regular, predictable schedule or routine for meals, quiet time, playtime and bedtime

      - Helping children prepare for changes and new experiences

      - Spending time together as a family

      - Encouraging children to express their feelings by listening and hearing their stories

      If you are concerned about exposure to violence or feel unsafe, discuss your concerns with your doctor or someone else you trust.

      If there is domestic violence in your home, these resources can help:

      - National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−SAFE (7233)

      - Partnership Against Domestic Violence

      - Victim Assistance Atlanta
      If you are concerned about bullying or violence at school, talk to school personnel or call Georgia’s school safety toll-free, anonymous hotline: 1-877-SAY-STOP (729-7867)

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Learn More About Our Asthma Center

For Professionals: Schedule an appointment

More Information about Indoor Triggers

www.epa.gov/asthma 
www.noattacks.org