Controlling Your Asthma Triggers

Triggers are things that can make your asthma symptoms get worse or flare up. They may include all or some of these:

  • Allergens

  • Irritants

  • Some types of exercise

  • Strong emotions

  • Health conditions

  • Weather changes

It's important to know your triggers. And try to stay away from them, if possible.


Indoor allergens include dust, mold, pet dander, and cockroaches. Outdoor allergens include pollens from grass, trees and weeds, and mold.

You may already know that allergies make your asthma worse. If you think allergens may be a problem, talk with your healthcare provider. They may advise you to see an allergist. An allergist may do testing and provide treatment.

What you can do indoors:

  • Dust often with a damp cloth and vacuum at least once a week. You might need to wear a face mask while cleaning.

  • Remove clutter that can collect dust or grow mold. If possible, remove carpets and rugs.

  • Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens.

  • Make sure air conditioners, heating units, and appliances are clean. Change filters often.

  • Wash your bedding every week in hot water and dry it completely. Use dust-proof pillow and mattress covers.

  • Keep pets out of your bedroom. Keep them off furniture and rugs. Have pets groomed often.

  • Wash dishes, clean counters, and empty trash after eating or making meals. This helps prevent cockroaches. Keep all foods in sealed bags or containers.

  • Use home air filters and vacuums that can decrease allergens. Change or clean filters as directed.

What you can do outdoors:

  • Check the pollen counts in your area online or on a weather report. Try to stay indoors when levels are high outdoors. If you have to go out, consider wearing a face mask when you go outside.

  • Bathe and change your clothes when you come indoors if allergen levels are high outdoors.

  • Don't rake leaves or cut the grass if these things bother you. Think about wearing a face mask when you work in your garden.


These include air pollution, smoke, strong odors, chemicals, and other products.

What you can do:

  • If you smoke, ask your healthcare provider for help quitting. And try to stay away from secondhand and third-hand smoke.

  • Stay away from fireplaces, wood stoves, barbecues or grills, or other sources of smoke.

  • Watch air pollution levels. If the level is high, stay indoors as much as possible.

  • Use scent-free cleaning, laundry, health, and beauty products.

  • Don’t use candles, potpourri, or air fresheners.

Your symptoms may be worse at work or at other places where you spend a lot of time. Work with your healthcare provider or an allergist. They can help you figure out what is causing your symptoms. They can help you find possible solutions.

Some types of exercise

Some people have asthma symptoms or flare-ups only when they exercise. And some people have several triggers including exercise.

What you can do:

  • If you only have symptoms with certain types of exercise, see your healthcare provider. They may prescribe medicine to use before exercise.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about how to exercise safely. Ask what to do if you have trouble breathing while exercising.

  • Exercise indoors when weather or outdoor air quality makes it harder for you to breathe. Cold weather or dry air can make asthma symptoms worse.

  • Try activities that take place in warmer conditions or only need short bursts of energy, such as walking, hiking, baseball, swimming, or golf.

Strong emotions

Strong emotions, such as laughing and crying, can act as triggers. And being depressed, stressed, or anxious can make symptoms worse.

What you can do:

  • Know that you can’t always control your feelings.

  • Try deep breathing, relaxation exercises, meditation, or yoga to help you relax.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider if you need help. Medicines, counseling, and other programs can help.

Health conditions

Some conditions are more common in people with asthma. These include sinus infections, acid reflux (GERD), and sleep apnea. These conditions also make asthma harder to control.

What you can do:

  • See your healthcare provider on a regular basis. Make sure they know about any problems you are having. This includes heartburn or indigestion.

  • Try to stay away from people who have colds, coughs, or the flu. And wash your hands often.

  • Stay up-to-date on your vaccines. This includes getting a flu shot every year. 

Your asthma may be triggered by respiratory infections. If you start to have symptoms, take your asthma medicines as directed by your provider. Look for respiratory symptoms, such as nasal stuffiness, runny nose, cough, or sore throat.

Weather changes

Very cold or hot weather can make symptoms worse.

What you can do:

  • Stay indoors when it is very cold, hot, windy, or humid outside.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf or face mask in cold weather.

Planning ahead

With a little planning, you can stay away from things that make your asthma symptoms worse or flare up. Talk with your healthcare provider about other ways to stay away from triggers.

Online Medical Reviewer: Dan Brennan MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Deborah Pedersen MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2023
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