Environmental Asthma Triggers

Have Asthma? Take a Look Around You

Find your triggers and breathing easier might be just a few steps away!

  Have asthma but can't figure out what makes it worse? Gloria, Kelly and Eddie were just like you... ...until a few simple steps made a big difference  
picture of gloria and dj
Gloria & D.J.
"My grandson's asthma attacks just seem to happen. I heard that asthma problems can be caused by cigarette smoke but nobody in our house smokes." "The nurse said that a lot of things can make my grandson's asthma worse, not just cigarettes. She told me that everyone's triggers are different. Even my perfume could be a problem! Now I'm paying more attention." picture of gloria and jg
picture of kelly
"The doctor said I should keep track of what I am doing when my asthma gets worse. But, I have a lot going on. Writing stuff down just isn't going to work for me." "I'm noticing where I am and what I am doing when my asthma gets worse, even if I don't always write it down. I've learned that my asthma bothers me more when it is hot outside. The doctor and I came up with a plan. Now I know what to do to keep my asthma from bothering me, even when it is really hot." picture of kelly
picture of eddie
"I know that my dog makes my asthma worse, but there isn't a lot I can do about it. I'm not getting rid of Moe. He's a member of my family." "I started keeping my dog out of the room where I sleep. Now I don't stay awake coughing. I'm so glad that there was something I could do to help my asthma and still keep my dog." picture of eddie

Find out about triggers steps for reducing common triggers

A trigger is anything that makes your asthma worse. Triggers are different for each person. A trigger can be something you are allergic to, but it doesn't have to be.

Triggers can be indoors or outdoors. Many common triggers are found at home, school and at work. Some common triggers are smoke, food, dust, weather, colds, flu and stress.

Learn your triggers

Notice where you are and what you're doing when your asthma gets worse. Try using the Trigger Tracker on the back of this brochure. Share this information with your doctor. This can help you and your doctor learn about your triggers. Once you know your triggers, you can learn different ways to stay away from them.

Stay a step ahead

Your triggers

Keep your asthma triggers out of your home or take steps to stop them from making your asthma worse if you can't keep them out. For example, don't use perfume or smelly products if they make your asthma worse. For other triggers, keeping your home clean, dry and comfortable can help.

Figure out which triggers make your asthma worse and then start by keeping them out of the area where you sleep. As you learn more, try getting rid of triggers throughout your home.

Your asthma

Talk to your doctor about an asthma action plan. Your asthma action plan will tell you how and when to take your asthma medicines.

Know what steps to take every day and what steps to take when your asthma gets worse. Look over the Key Questions with your doctor and make sure you understand how you can stay in control of your asthma.

Steps for reducing common triggers

If your trigger is... First Steps If it's still a problem
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Pets with fur or feathers
Create a pet-free zone. Keep your pet off the furniture and out of the room where you sleep. Clean your home often. Wash your hands and face and change your clothes after playing with your pet. Keep your pet outside whenever you can or consider finding another home for your pet. If you plan to get a pet, choose one that doesn't have fur or feathers.
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Pests (mice, rats, cockroaches)
Don't give pests food, water or places to hide. Put away food and clean up spills right away. Remove garbage and store it outside in a garbage can with a lid. Fix leaks and seal cracks in floors, walls and ceilings. Reduce clutter. Try not to use sprays, "bug bombs" or other products that have harmful chemicals. Contact Cornell Cooperative Extension or your local health department to find out ways to get rid of pests safely. If you have to use chemicals, follow label directions carefully.
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Stop dust from building up, even in places where you can't see it (like your bed). Stop dust from building up by getting rid of clutter and keeping your home clean. Wash bedding regularly in hot water. Choose stuffed toys that are washable and wash them often in hot water. See if someone else can do some of the cleaning. Consider buying special mattress and pillow cases for people with asthma or allergies. These are sold at stores that sell bedding. See if you can remove some of your curtains or carpets, which can trap dust. Floors and shades with smooth surfaces may be easier to clean.
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Keep your home clean and dry. Mold needs water to grow. Fix leaks and remove standing water as fast as you can. Open windows or use fans to stop steam from building up in the kitchen and bathroom. Wash your hands and face, and change your clothes after cleaning up mold, raking leaves or cutting grass. Remove or replace moldy materials that can't be cleaned. Have someone else clean up existing mold, rake leaves and cut the grass. Contact your local health department if mold is a big problem that you can't clean up yourself.
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Don't smoke anything and stay away from smoke. Make your car and home smoke-free. Get help if you or a family member is having trouble quitting. It's free to call the Smoker's Quitline: (866) 697-8487
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Cleaning, paint and smelly products
Keep strong smells out of your home. If odors are bothering your asthma, leave the area until the odors go away or try to get them out by turning on exhaust fans or opening windows. Try to stay away from perfumes, candles and air fresheners. If you must use smelly products, follow label instructions and use as little as possible. Don't touch or breathe in chemicals when they are being used. Ask someone else to clean, paint or apply chemicals for you. Don't be afraid to ask people to stop using perfumes, candles or air fresheners if they are bothering your asthma.
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Weather and outdoor air
Listen to your local weather report because sometimes the temperature or the air quality outside can cause problems for people with asthma. When it is very cold, try to stay inside somewhere warm or cover your mouth with a scarf when you are outside. When it is very hot, try to stay inside somewhere cool. If you go outside, try to stay out of the heat and don't exercise or work hard. Talk to your doctor and have a plan for days when the temperature or air quality might cause problems for your asthma. Be prepared with your medication and know what steps to take if your asthma starts to get worse.
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Colds and flu
Try your best to avoid getting sick. Wash your hands often. Try not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth. Get a flu shot every year. Ask your doctor for an asthma action plan so that you know what steps to take if you do get sick. If you do get sick, be prepared with your medication and follow the steps on your asthma action plan. Pay close attention to your asthma and call your doctor if you need help.

Key Questions

Here are some ideas to talk about with your doctor.

  • What do I need to know?
    • What is asthma?
    • What makes my asthma worse?
    • Can I tell if an asthma attack is coming?
    • Will I always have asthma?
  • How can I keep my asthma under control?
    • How and when should I take my asthma medicines?
    • What kinds of asthma medicines am I taking (quick relief, controller, etc)?
    • What can I do at home, at work or school to make my asthma better?
    • Do I have to limit any of my activities?
    • When should I get help from a doctor or hospital for my asthma?
    • How often should I see my doctor for asthma check-ups?
  • Why will this help me?
    • Why do I need to keep away from my asthma triggers?
    • Why is it important to take my medicines the right way?
    • What can I expect to happen if I do all, or most, of these things?
    • What can I expect to happen if I don't?


Asthma information

Learn more about triggers

Talk to your doctor

Other resources