Asthma Triggers

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Topic Overview

An asthma trigger is a factor that can lead to sudden difficulty breathing or other symptoms of asthma (asthma attack).

Some triggers are substances a person may be allergic to (allergens). Allergens cause the body's natural defenses (immune system) to produce chemicals called immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. These chemicals bind to allergens, causinginflammationof the bronchial tubes, which carry air to the lungs. The allergen may also cause asthma attacks. These triggers include:

Other triggers can cause asthma symptoms without affecting the body's immune system. These include:

  • Cigarette smoke and air pollution.
  • Viral infections, such as colds and influenza, and sinus and other upper respiratory infections.
  • Exercise. Many people with asthma have symptoms when they exercise.
  • Dry, cold air.
  • Medicines, such as aspirin or beta-blockers.
  • In adults, hormones, including those involved in pregnancy and menstrual periods (just before or during periods).
  • Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD). GERD may make asthma worse for some people.

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Other Works Consulted

  • Guarnieri M, Balmes JR (2014). Outdoor air pollution and asthma. Lancet, 383(9928): 1581-1592. DOI 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60617-6. Accessed May 6, 2014.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Mary F. McNaughton-Collins, MD, MPH - Internal Medicine

Current as ofDecember 6, 2017

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Asthma Triggers