Asthma Triggers Explained

The secret to controlling your asthma is knowing what triggers the symptoms. From pollen to aspirin, identifying them is the first step.

Updated: Tuesday 17 November 2020

Asthma Triggers

Asthma is a chronic condition where your airways become narrow and inflamed, causing you to become short of breath and wheeze. This usually happens as a response to a substance to which you are sensitive. These symptoms can also occur in a situation that changes your normal breathing rhythm.

What is an asthma trigger?

Triggers can be anything that irritates your sensitive airways and sets off your asthma symptoms. Each person has their own triggers and a combination of them can result in an attack. What gives you symptoms of asthma might not have an effect on another asthma sufferer.

What kind of triggers are there?

The key is to know what triggers your asthma so that you can manage it and avoid setting off the symptoms that occur when the airways are irritated. What triggers asthma is different for each person. You can have one or more triggers and even a mix of them could affect you. Common ones can be pollen, cat or dog fur, dust, cigarette smoke, food allergies, and even cold weather. Other triggers include:

  • Certain drugs
  • Food additives
  • Pollution
  • Flu and illness
  • Stress
  • Exercise

Why do triggers sometimes have a different effect?

The sensitivity of your airways is different everyday and varies with age. So something that you did not react to last year could spark symptoms today. But if your asthma is well-controlled, your usual triggers are less likely to trigger an attack.

Reacting to two separate triggers at the same time can worsen the symptoms, such as if you come into contact with a cat while exposed to spring air full of flower pollen from a nearby garden.

Know your triggers

Try to pinpoint what triggers your asthma symptoms and avoid them. These might not always be obvious, but with time you should be able to reduce the chance of an attack. Keeping a detailed record of your activities and symptoms can help you identify the more difficult triggers as you spot the patterns.

Taking further steps

  • You should use a preventer inhaler everyday as prescribed to help reduce sensitivity on a daily basis and lower the chance of a reaction once exposed to a trigger
  • It is a good idea to keep a diary. Record each activity and the details of your symptoms. That way you can identify which substances trigger a reaction and avoid them as best you can
  • Get your asthma reviewed by a doctor or nurse on an annual basis and bring your asthma report with you for reference. They should also make sure you are taking medication in the right way and in the correct doses.
  • If you find that they have to use your blue Ventolin inhaler more than usual, seek advice from your GP.
  • Consider discussing an asthma action plan with your doctor. This would include how to recognise and manage an asthma attack and what you would do in an emergency.

Should you need them Pharmica prescribes Ventolin inhalers that act quickly to treat asthma symptoms.

Iris Barbier

Written by: Iris Barbier

Pharmacy Assistant

Born in France, Iris moved to the UK to study Biological Sciences at London Metropolitan University. Upon graduating, Iris moved up north, where she completed an MA in Science Journalism at the University of Lincoln.

As a qualified science journalist, Iris uses her expertise to write content for Pharmica’s online Health Centre. She ensures our patients get specialist knowledge on medical conditions and how to treat them.

Find out more about how we ensure the accuracy of our content with our content guidelines.

Asthma: Everything You Need to Know
Asthma: Everything You Need to Know