What Causes Asthma?

Shortness of breathe, excessive coughing, wheezing, and tightness, pain, or pressure in the chest; about 26 million Americans diagnosed with asthma experience these symptoms every day.


The cause for asthma is not certain, but most researchers believe asthma has a genetic origin, which means asthma is typically a disease people are born with. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America believes that in order to understand the causes of asthma, it is better to ask the question, “what causes asthma symptoms to appear,” rather than “what causes asthma?”[1]


The airways of those who are living with asthma are chronically inflamed, which makes them extremely sensitive to things, known as triggers, that people without asthma are unaffected by. Each person living with asthma has different triggers. Some people have few triggers, others have many, and the severity of one persons’ asthma episode may be higher than another’s. Most triggers are environmental or related to lifestyle.


Below is a list of common triggers. If you are having difficulty determining your triggers, pay close attention to patterns, as triggers do not always take immediate effect.


  • Airborne allergens such as pollen, mold, and dust mites.
  • Air pollutants including smoke from fires and cigarettes, and strong fumes from paint, gasoline, and perfumes.
  • Weather, specifically when it changes abruptly, and when there is cold air or dry wind.
  • Respiratory infections as minor as the common cold, and as severe as the flu and sinus infections. These are the number one triggers for children.
  • Aspirin and some other medications.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Some women say their asthma is easily triggered during their menstrual cycle[2]
  • Any physical activity that makes breathing more difficult.
  • Strong emotions, like anger or excitement, and stress.
  • Preservatives added in certain foods and beverages
  • Obesity and unhealthy lifestyle and/or diet


What are your triggers? Please share your story with us on how you came to find your trigger!


Jaime Venditti, State Coordinator, New York Health Works


[1] http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=8&cont=6
[2] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/basics/causes/con-20026992