Begin Main Content Area

Asthma Triggers

An asthma attack can happen when a person is exposed to asthma triggers. One person's triggers can be different from the triggers for someone else with asthma. Part of controlling asthma is learning your triggers and how to avoid them. The following information is adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For links to more information, check out the Asthma Resources page.

Cleaning and Disinfection

People with asthma should try to stay away when cleaners or disinfectants are being used and right after their use. Follow these precautions when cleaning or disinfecting places where people with asthma spend time:

  • Avoid overuse of products.
  • Use safer products. Use soap and water or cleaners certified by the EPA Safer Choice program.
  • Never mix disinfectant products.
  • Avoid using bleach in enclosed spaces.
  • Avoid products with fragrances.
  • Make sure there is enough air flow. Open doors and windows to bring in fresh air if it is safe to do so.
  • Improve ventilation by using exhaust fans.
  • Use products safely and correctly.
  • Avoid disturbing dust.

Dust Mites

Dust mites are microscopic bugs that are in many homes. Create a barrier between yourself and dust mites by using allergen-proof mattress and pillowcase covers. Don't use down-filled pillows, quilts, or comforters. Wash bedding frequently and dry it completely. Vacuum regularly using a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter.


Indoor mold growth is often found in damp areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, basements, or in areas where water damage has occurred. There are many types of molds that can be found in any climate. Get rid of any mold in your home. To reduce mold exposure in your home:

  • Dry damp or wet items within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth.
  • Fix water leaks which allow mold to grow behind walls and under floors as soon as you can.
  • Replace absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles and carpet if mold is present.
  • Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to maintain low indoor humidity.
  • Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water. Dry completely.
  • Empty and clean refrigerator and air conditioner drip pans regularly.
  • Run the bathroom exhaust fan or open the window when showering.

Outdoor Air Pollution

Outdoor air pollution can come from many sources including factories, cars, or wildfire smoke. Pay attention to air quality forecasts on the radio, TV, internet, or your phone and plan your activities for when air pollution levels will be low.

Tobacco Smoke

Tobacco smoke is unhealthy for everyone. "Secondhand smoke" is smoke created by a smoker and breathed in by a second person. Make your home and car smoke-free zones. Encourage household members to quit smoking (PA Free Quitline 1-800-QUIT-NOW). If you, your child, or anyone close to you has asthma, people should not smoke near you, in your home, in your car, or wherever you spend a lot of time.

Pests (like cockroaches or mice)

Cockroaches and other pests are often found where food is eaten, and crumbs are left behind. Some steps to control pests:

  • Remove as many water and food sources as you can.
  • Clean dishes, crumbs, and spills right away.
  • Store food in airtight containers.
  • Keep trash in a closed container.
  • Every 2 to 3 days, vacuum or sweep areas that might attract pests.


If you are allergic to furry pets, these pets can trigger an asthma attack. An option may be to find the pet another home. If you can't or don't want to find a new home for the pet, decrease your exposure by:

  • Keeping pets out of bedrooms.
  • Washing pets.
  • Using an air cleaner with HEPA filter.
  • Using allergen-proof mattress and pillow covers.

Other Asthma Triggers

  • Infections linked to influenza (flu), colds and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • Sinus infections
  • Allergies
  • Pollen
  • Breathing in some chemicals
  • Acid reflux
  • Physical exercise
  • Some medicines
  • Bad weather, such as thunderstorms or high humidity
  • Breathing in cold, dry air
  • Some foods, food additives, and fragrances
  • Strong emotions leading to very fast breathing (hyperventilation)