Causes of asthma

3) Asthma triggers

An asthma trigger is anything you are not allergic to but which irritates the airways and starts off asthma symptoms.

View text alternative

Things that may trigger asthma include:

  • Exercise – it is essential to keep active but you may need to take your inhalers a few minutes before you start to exercise. Warm up slowly and remember to cool down after exercise. Keep your inhalers with you and take water with you. If you are still experiencing symptoms when you exercise, see your doctor or asthma nurse for advice.
    Exercise is a great way to help you manage your asthma but if your asthma is triggered by exercise see your doctor or asthma nurse for advice on how to exercise safely.
  • Emotions – A fit of laughter can trigger asthma. 69% of people with asthma find stress can trigger an attack. Always carry your inhaler with you so you get get relief quickly.
  • Weather – Thunderstorms can release large quantities of pollen into the air and trigger asthma attacks. Extremes of hot and cold air can also be a trigger.
    Plan ahead when the weather is bad. Keep a track of weather report and pollen levels. There are a number of smart phone apps to track pollen and weather in your area. Contact Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS) advice line If you have a mobile phone you can sign up to our free Air Quality and Weather Text Alert Service.
    To find out more please call the Advice Line Nurses on 0845 077 6000
  • Cigarette smoke – 82% of people with asthma find cigarette smoke triggers their asthma. It can irritate the lungs and increase the risk of an asthma attack and may permanently damage the airways. You increase the risk of asthma persisting if you smoke as a teenager. Cigarette smoking is associated with persistent asthma (Currie et al, 2005).
    The benefits of stopping smoking e start right away. Not just health benefits but think of the amount of cash you will save. Avoiding others who smoke is not only good for your health but it prevents your clothes and hair being contaminated by others smoke.
  • Moulds – Moulds release tiny spores into the air which can be a trigger. Mould spores are found in any damp place e.g. woody areas, bathrooms, kitchens and even piles of damp clothes.
    ry to dry clothes outdoors when you can. If you do have to dry clothes indoors, keep to one room with the door closed and windows opened to reduce moisture build up which mould spores thrive on.
  • Hormones –  women find their asthma can be affected around puberty, before their periods, during pregnancy and during the menopause.
    A way to check if your hormones and menstrual cycle are affecting your asthma symptoms is to keep a detailed diary including your peak flow readings. Discuss this with your doctor or asthma nurse. If you have difficult to control asthma you may need hormone replacement to control symptoms.
  • Strong odours – Strong smells such as  perfumes and  air fresheners,, and sprays like deodorants may also be a trigger.
    Try using non perfumed cleaning products or deodorants in roll on dispensers.
  • Air pollution – Pollution such as exhaust fumes, and industrial chemicals may also be a trigger. There are free air pollution alerts from Know and Respond Scotland
  • Food – A western diet can be a risk factor for developing asthma and although no special diet is needed some people find that some foods also trigger their asthma e.g. cow’s milk, eggs, fish, nuts and some food colourings and preservatives.
    Most people with asthma should try to follow a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables which contain vitamins and nutrients. This helps your immune system to fight off infections.

If you live in Scotland and  would like to receive free text alerts for air quality or weather text WEATHER to 66777