Controlling Other Triggers

Many things can trigger symptoms in people with respiratory conditions like asthma or COPD. They may be allergens such as mold, pollens, or dust. Or they may be irritants such as smoke or strong odors. You may find there are things that trigger symptoms that aren’t allergens or irritants. These include weather changes, illness, stress, and exercise. The tips below can help to ease your symptoms.


Certain weather conditions can trigger symptoms. Or they can make other triggers worse.

  • Keep track of weather conditions that affect you. Very high or low temperatures, or high humidity, can make symptoms worse. For some people major changes in weather can be a trigger.

  • Limit outdoor activity during the type of weather that affects you.

  • Wear a scarf over your mouth and nose in cold weather.

Colds, flu, and sinus infections

Closeup of hands in sink with running water.

Illnesses that affect the nose, throat, and sinuses can irritate your lungs. These illnesses are called upper respiratory infections. They can cause asthma flare-ups.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. Or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.

  • Get a yearly flu shot. And talk with your healthcare provider about whether you should get the pneumonia vaccine.

  • Take care of your general health. Get plenty of sleep. And eat a healthy, balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables.

Food additives

Food additives can trigger asthma flare-ups in some people.

  • Check food labels for sulfites, metabisulfites, and sulfur dioxide. These are often found in foods such as wine, beer, and dried fruits.

  • Do not eat foods that contain these additives if they trigger your asthma.


Some medicines may cause symptoms in some people with asthma. These include aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen, and some beta-blockers.

  • Tell your healthcare provider if you think certain medicines trigger symptoms.

  • Make sure to read the labels on over-the-counter medicines. They may have ingredients that cause symptoms for you.


Laughing, crying, or feeling excited are triggers for some people.

  • Try this breathing exercise to stay calm: Start by breathing in slowly through your nose for a count of 2 seconds. Then close your lips and breathe out for a count of 4 seconds.

  • Try to focus on a soothing image in your mind. This will help relax you and calm your breathing.

  • Remember to take your daily controller medicines. When you are upset or under stress, it’s easy to forget.


For some people, exercise can trigger symptoms. Don’t let this stop you from being active. As you know, exercise is good for both your overall health and your lung health. It also strengthens the heart and blood vessels. It also may lower your sensitivity to triggers. These tips and your healthcare provider's advice can help:

  • If you have not been exercising regularly, start slow and do more gradually.

  • Take all of your medicines as prescribed.

  • If you use quick-relief medicine, make sure you have it with you when you exercise. 

  • Ask your healthcare provider if you might benefit from taking your quick-relief medicine before you exercise.

  • Stop if you have any symptoms. Make sure you talk with your healthcare provider about these symptoms.