Content Map Terms

Asthma Triggers

British Columbia Specific Information

Asthma is a common chronic condition that causes your airway to narrow and swell. You may experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, coughing, and wheezing. Symptoms may range from being mildly annoying to deadly. For this reason it is important to speak with a health care provider if you think you may have asthma.

For more information about asthma, visit our Asthma Health Feature. You may also call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.​

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 defences (immune system) to produce chemicals called immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. These chemicals bind to allergens, causing inflammation of 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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References

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.

Credits

Current as of:
February 24, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Donald Sproule MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Lora J. Stewart MD - Allergy and Immunology
Mary F. McNaughton Collins MD, MPH - Internal Medicine