What Triggers or Causes Asthma?

No one really knows what causes asthma. We know for sure that asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the airways. The causes of asthma symptoms vary from person to person. One thing remains unchanged: during contact of the respiratory tract with factors provoking asthma, they become inflamed, narrowed and filled with mucus.

During an asthmatic attack, smooth muscle spasm, inflammation and swelling of the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract, and intense mucus secretion lead to narrowing of the airways. This increases the sensitivity of the bronchi and makes breathing difficult, causing shortness of breath, coughing, or a wheezing sound during breathing. A cough can be caused by irritation in the bronchi and the body’s desire to get rid of the accumulated mucus.

So why does someone have asthma and someone does not? Nobody knows for sure. It is known that allergies play a large role in the occurrence of the disease in many people, but not in all. Along with allergies, one of the factors is a hereditary predisposition to asthma.

If you are predisposed to asthma, it is important to understand what triggers it. Once you understand what triggers your disease, you will be able to control it significantly by avoiding contact with these factors and thus reducing the frequency of attacks. For example, if you find that allergens cause asthmatic attacks, then you have allergic asthma, and you will have to “hide” from allergens.

What Triggers or Causes Asthma

Here are the most common asthma triggers.


Eighty percent of people with asthma suffer from allergies to airborne components: pollen of plants, trees, grasses, mold, animal hair, house dust, insect remains. At home, irritants can be the smells of synthetic detergents or the “stains” of household parasites.

Foods and supplements that trigger asthma

Although food allergens rarely cause asthma, they can cause severe, life-threatening conditions. The most common foods associated with an allergic reaction include:

  • Eggs;
  • Cow’s milk;
  • Peanuts;
  • Soy;
  • Wheat;
  • Fish;
  • Shrimp and other crustaceans;
  • Salad and fresh fruit.

Canned food can also cause asthma. Sulfite additives such as sodium hydrogen sulfite, potassium hydrogen sulfite, sodium pyrosulfite, potassium pyrosulfite, and sodium sulfite are often used in canned food and can cause asthma in people prone to the disease.

Physical exertion asthma

Intense physical activity can narrow the airways by 80% in people with asthma. For some people, exercise may be the main cause of asthma symptoms. With exercise asthma, the following symptoms appear: chest tightness, coughing, difficulty breathing in the first 5-8 minutes of aerobic exercise. Usually, these symptoms disappear after 20-30 minutes of exercise, but in more than half of the cases, a second attack occurs after 6-10 hours.

Asthma and heartburn

Asthma and heartburn often go hand in hand. Recent studies have shown that approximately 89% of asthma patients also suffer from heartburn, known as gastroesophageal reflux. Gastroesophageal reflux is more likely to occur at night when a person is in a supine position. Normally, a valve between the esophagus and the stomach prevents acid from the stomach from flushing back into the esophagus. In gastroesophageal reflux, the valve function is impaired. There is a reverse release of acid from the stomach into the esophagus, if acid enters the pharynx or respiratory tract, this leads to an asthmatic attack.

Reflux is one of the most common causes of asthma in adulthood, with no previous allergic history or bronchitis tendency, hereditary predisposition, difficult to control asthma or cough when lying down.

Smoking and asthma

Smokers are more prone to asthma. If a person smokes with asthma, it can worsen symptoms such as coughing or shortness of breath. Women who smoke during pregnancy increase the risk of wheezing in their babies. Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy had lower lung function indicators than those whose mothers did not smoke. The only way out for a smoker with asthma is to quit smoking.

Sinusitis and other upper respiratory tract infections

Just as inflammation of the airways mucosa causes asthma, sinusitis causes inflammation of the sinus mucosa. This inflammation of the mucous membrane results in increased mucus secretion. When the sinuses are inflamed, the airways respond in a similar way in people with asthma. Appropriate treatment for sinusitis is essential, including to relieve asthma symptoms.

Infections and asthma

Colds, flu, bronchitis and sinusitis can all trigger an asthma attack. These respiratory infections of viral or bacterial etiology are a common cause of asthma, especially in children under 10 years of age. Airway hypersensitivity and a tendency to constrict may persist for up to two months after the infection has recovered. It is estimated that 20 to 70% of asthma patients have a tendency to have concomitant sinusitis. On the other hand, 15 to 56% of people with allergic rhinitis (hay fever) or sinusitis are prone to developing asthma.

Medications and asthma

Many people with asthma are hypersensitive to aspirin and possibly other anti-inflammatory drugs as well, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), ketoprofen (Orudis), and beta-blockers (used for heart disease, high blood pressure, glaucoma). If you are aware of your sensitivity to these drugs, make sure your doctor has entered this information on your card. We also recommend that you always consult with your pharmacist about the possible effects of the drug.

Other causes of asthma

  • Irritants. Many irritants, including tobacco smoke, smoke from a fire, burning wood, strong perfume, cleaning products, etc., can trigger an asthma attack. In addition, air pollution, including the air in the work area (in the workplace), dust or fumes, can cause an attack;
  • Weather. Cold air, temperature and humidity changes can also trigger asthma;
  • Powerful emotions. Stress and asthma are always there. Anxiety, crying, screaming, stress, irritation, or strong laughter can trigger an asthma attack.

How do these factors trigger an attack?

In people with asthma, the airways are always inflamed and very sensitive, so they easily react to various external factors. Contact with these factors causes asthma symptoms, mucus blocks the airways and as a result, symptoms worsen. An asthmatic attack can occur immediately after contact with provoking factors or after a few days or weeks.

There are many such factors. The reaction to them is individual for each person and can change from attack to attack. Certain factors in some people can only cause inflammation, while for others they may be safe. Some people have more than one cause of asthma, others cannot identify one. Detecting and avoiding contact with asthma triggers, where possible, is an important step in asthma control. Always remember that the best way to do this is to get your asthma medications on time.

How to understand which factors cause asthma?

Evaluate what factors are involved at the time of the onset of asthmatic symptoms. This will be the first step in determining the cause. Although the reasons are varied, you may not respond to all of them. Some react to only one factor, others to several at once.

Many factors can be determined by taking your medical history or by having an allergy skin test or blood test. The doctor may also recommend the use of a device – peak flow meter. A peak flow meter measures the speed and amount of air exhaled from the lungs. The indicators will indicate changes in breathing and warn about the likely approach of an attack.