CHOC Children's
RESPIRATORY DISORDERS :: All About Asthma

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 Respiratory Infections and Sinusitis
  • pollen
  • mold
  • animal protein (dander, urine, oil from skin)
  • house dust/dust mites
  • cockroaches
  • certain foods
Infections can cause irritation of the airways, nose, throat, lungs, and sinuses, and worsens asthma.
Irritants Sensitivity to Medications
  • 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
Medications, such as aspirin and sulfites, may cause 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 giving your child any medication, including over-the-counter medications, talk with your child's physician.

Exercise Gastroesophageal Reflux
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. 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 Emotional Anxiety and Nervous Stress
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.

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.

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It is important to remember the health information found on this website is for reference only not intended to replace the advice and guidance of your healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.

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