"Trigger" is a funny word for something that makes your asthma
For example, petting your aunt's cat or playing outside after the grass is cut
are things that might "trigger" your asthma symptoms. You might get an asthma flare-up
(or "attack"), which can make you cough, wheeze, or have trouble breathing.
People with asthma have different triggers. Some people have one or two, while
others have a bunch. Triggers may change from winter to summer.
What Are My Asthma Triggers?
Your doctor will help you figure out your asthma triggers. Common triggers are:
allergens (say: AL-ur-jenz),
which are things that cause allergic reactions
irritants (say: EAR-uh-tunts), including dirty stuff in the air, like smoke or
To find out your triggers, the doctor may suggest that you keep an asthma
diary for a couple of weeks. This means you or an adult will write down when and
where you have symptoms and flare-ups. You also may see a special doctor called an
allergist (say: AL-ur-jist), who can figure out if you have any allergies
that might be causing your symptoms.
How Can I Avoid My Asthma Triggers?
Learning about your triggers is one part of your asthma
action plan that your doctor will help you write down. This plan will look at
all the things you need to do to manage your asthma, including how to avoid or handle
You can't keep away from all triggers all the time. But avoiding them as much as
possible can help prevent flare-ups.
How Can I Avoid Allergens?
Allergens are a very common trigger. They include:
You won't be able to stay away from all allergens, but you can:
Keep your room
as clean and free of dust as possible. This means vacuuming and dusting weekly, and
getting rid of clutter. Your old stuffed animals might need to go into a box in the
Wash your sheets weekly in hot water. You can get covers for your mattress, box
spring, and pillows that will help too.
Get rid of carpets. Any kind of rug or carpeting can collect allergens that cause
Keep any pets out of your room. Before you spend the night at a friend's house,
find out what kinds of pets he or she has.
If your asthma symptoms are triggered by allergies,
you might also need to take allergy medicine or have allergy shots. Your doctor will
let you know.
How Can I Avoid Irritants?
Triggers in the air — also called irritants
or pollutants (say: puh-LEW-tunts) — can bother people who don't have allergies
or asthma too. Irritants aren't a serious problem for them, but for people with asthma,
they can lead to flare-ups.
Common irritants include perfumes and aerosol (say: AIR-uh-sol) sprays, such as
hair spray and cleaners. Other irritants include wood and tobacco smoke, the smell
given off by paint or gas, and air pollution.
If you notice that an irritant triggers your asthma, let an adult know, so he or
she can keep it away from you. This might mean switching to different cleaning products,
for instance. If smoke bothers you, avoid fires in the fireplace or woodstove. And
of course, no one should smoke cigarettes or other tobacco products around you.
If outdoor air pollution is a problem, running the air conditioner or an air cleaner
can help. Having an adult check air quality reports on the news is a good idea. On
days when the quality is bad, you might want to stay indoors.
How Can I Handle Bad Weather?
Certain types of weather can cause your asthma to act up, such as:
windy conditions that stir up pollens and molds
rain that lets trees and grasses produce even more pollen later in the season
very cold or very hot weather
humidity (when the air has a lot of moisture in it) or very dry air
If you know that some weather conditions make your asthma worse, you or your parent
should keep an eye on the forecast — on some days, you may need to spend less
time outdoors. If cold weather is the problem, you'll want to wear a scarf that will
cover your nose and mouth when you go outside.
How Can I Avoid Getting Sick?
Colds and the flu can be hard to avoid. But you can help protect yourself by washing your hands regularly
and staying away from people who are sick. Getting a flu
shot each year is recommended for all kids, but is especially important for kids
How Can I Handle Exercising?
Exercise like running or playing a sport is another common trigger. But this is
one trigger that you shouldn't avoid because exercise is important for your health.
Your doctor will want you to be active, so talk with him or her about what to do
before playing sports. For instance, you might need to take medicine 10 or 15 minutes
before you exercise or play sports. And, of course, you'll want to have your quick-relief
medicine (also called rescue or fast-acting medicine) with you all the time.