What Causes Asthma?

From minor, occasional wheezing and coughing to full-blown asthma attacks, asthma sufferers spend their days managing symptoms and avoiding triggers.

For a new asthma sufferer, it can be difficult to pin down exactly what triggers their symptoms. 

Sometimes, triggers are environmental. Other times, they’re caused by exercise or movement.

No matter what triggers your asthma, there’s one thing all asthma sufferers have in common: Their airways become swollen and inflamed much more easily than those of non-asthma sufferers.

While the ultimate cause of asthma - narrow, inflamed airways - is the same across the board, here are some common asthma triggers:


If you’re allergic to certain substances, exposure can trigger asthma symptoms.

Some common allergic asthma triggers include:

  • Dust mites

  • Cockroaches

  • Pollen

  • Molds

  • Pet dander

  • Rodents

It is best to limit or eliminate exposure to substances you are allergic to to prevent asthma issues.

Air Irritants

No matter where you live, there are irritants in the air that can trigger asthma symptoms. However, if you live in an area with high air pollution, it can be worse.

Some common air irritants include:

  • Cigarette smoke

  • Air pollution such as smog, ozone, and others

  • Wood fires

  • Charcoal grills

  • Strong fumes, vapors, or odors, such as gasoline, paint, perfumes, or soaps

  • Dust and particles in the air

  • Chemicals

Do your best to limit exposure to known irritants and, if necessary, wear a mask outdoors if you know you’ll come into contact with an irritant.

Respiratory Illnesses

Certain respiratory illnesses can trigger symptoms of asthma or make already present symptoms worse.

Some respiratory diseases that can cause problems for asthma sufferers include:

  • Colds

  • Flu

  • Sore throat

  • Sinus infection

  • Bronchitis

  • Pneumonia


When you’re physically active, your body has to work harder to breathe. This can trigger symptoms of asthma, especially in those who already have restricted airways.

Exercising in cold air can make symptoms worse.

With proper treatment, most asthma sufferers do not have to alter their workout routines. If you find it hard to breathe during exercise, or that you get winded more quickly than normal, it may mean you need to adjust your treatment.


Cold air, dry wind, or sudden atmospheric changes can trigger asthma symptoms.

For those with asthma that is exacerbated by pollen, thunderstorms can be especially triggering. 

Rain hits the pollen grains, breaking them into smaller pieces. The wind then moves those particles around, causing them to become more problematic.

Strong Emotions or Stress

If you’re feeling very strong emotions or experiencing great stress, your breathing patterns can change.

Breathing more heavily when you’re angry, scared, or even excited can cause you to wheeze. This can trigger coughing fits or other asthma symptoms.


Some medications, such as aspirin, NSAIDs, and beta blockers - can cause you to experience symptoms of asthma. These medications also may make your asthma symptoms more difficult to control, leading to more frequent flare-ups.

Other Health Conditions

Certain health conditions can cause you to develop symptoms of asthma or make your symptoms worse.

These conditions include:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

  • Food-induced anaphylaxis

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

  • Obesity

  • Nasal polyps

  • Pregnancy

  • Rhinitis

  • Sinusitis

If you’re experiencing asthma symptoms, or your symptoms are getting worse, talk to your doctor about your treatment plan.

Asthma Management in Mississippi

At the Mississippi Asthma & Allergy Clinic, we work hard to help our patients lead full, healthy lives despite their asthma. Our team of skilled doctors can help you identify the things that trigger your asthma and develop an individualized treatment plan so you can continue with your normal activities. Schedule your appointment at one of our five convenient locations today!