(Last Updated On: June 27, 2023)

What Makes Asthma Worse?

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It is caused by the airways in the lungs becoming inflamed, leading to difficulty breathing, chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing. Common causes of asthma flare-ups include indoor allergens, respiratory infections, airway inflammation, air pollution, physical activity, and stress.

Asthma relief inhalers and drops sitting on bedside table

Indoor Allergens

Indoor allergens include dust mites, pet dander, mold, and indoor air pollution. People with asthma should limit their exposure to these triggers.

Dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments and can be found in bedding, upholstered furniture, and carpeting. To reduce exposure, wash your bedding and vacuum your carpets and upholstered furniture frequently. Using allergen-proof covers on pillows and mattresses can also be helpful.

Pet dander is made up of tiny flakes of skin from animals like dogs and cats. Even if you don’t own a pet, pet dander can be present in homes where pets previously lived or where pet owners have visited. To reduce exposure to pet dander, avoid contact with pets, wash your hands after interacting with them, and keep them off of furniture and out of bedrooms.

Mold can grow in damp areas like bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. To reduce exposure to mold, keep humidity levels low by using dehumidifiers or air conditioners, fix any leaks or water damage promptly, and clean moldy areas with a solution of water and bleach.

Indoor air pollution includes things like tobacco smoke, cooking odors, and scented products like candles and air fresheners. Avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke, use a vented range hood when cooking, and avoid using scented products as much as possible.

Respiratory Infections

When a person with asthma gets a respiratory infection, it can cause inflammation in the airways, making it harder to breathe. This can lead to an increase in asthma symptoms and in some cases, a severe asthma attack that requires medical attention. The common cold, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are all examples of respiratory infections that can cause asthma flare-ups.

To prevent respiratory infections, wash your hands regularly with soap and water, avoid close contact with sick people, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. It’s also recommended to get an annual flu vaccine.

If you do get a respiratory infection, monitor your asthma symptoms closely. Make sure to take your asthma medications as prescribed and pay attention to any warning signs, such as increased shortness of breath or chest tightness. Contact your healthcare provider if asthma symptoms occur.

Airway Inflammation

Airway inflammation is caused by the inflammation and swelling of the airways, which makes it difficult for air to flow freely in and out of the lungs. It can lead to a variety of symptoms, including coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. When the airways are inflamed, they become more sensitive to things that trigger asthma attacks.

The most effective treatments for airway inflammation are anti-inflammatory medications, such as corticosteroids. These medications work by reducing inflammation in the airways, which can help to prevent asthma symptoms from occurring. In addition, identify and avoid triggers that can irritate the airways. Finally, work closely with a healthcare provider to manage airway inflammation.

Air Pollution

Air pollution is caused by the release of harmful chemicals and particles into the air, often due to human activities such as industrial production or transportation. Exposure to these pollutants can have serious health consequences, including respiratory problems, lung cancer, and heart disease.

One of the main sources of air pollution is vehicle emissions. Cars, trucks, and other transportation vehicles release harmful substances such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. When people breathe in these pollutants, they can cause irritation and damage to the lungs and other organs.

Air pollution can also come from industrial facilities and power plants. These activities release chemicals such as sulfur dioxide, mercury, and lead into the air, which can harm human health and the environment.

Children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma are particularly susceptible to the negative health effects of air pollution. Long-term exposure to pollutants can reduce lung function and increase the risk of chronic respiratory disease.

Physical Activity

Physical activity is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, but for people with asthma, it can trigger symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. This condition is known as exercise-induced asthma (EIA), and it affects an estimated 90% of people with asthma.

During exercise, people with EIA experience narrowing of the airways, which can make it difficult to breathe. The severity of symptoms can vary depending on the intensity and type of exercise, but they typically begin within the first 5–10 minutes of activity and can last up to an hour after exercise.

Despite the potential challenges, physical activity is still important for people with asthma. Exercise can help improve lung function, reduce the risk of other health problems, and even improve asthma symptoms over time. But how can someone with EIA safely participate in physical activity?

First, consult with your healthcare provider before starting or increasing any physical activity. They can help you develop an asthma action plan that includes strategies to manage symptoms during exercise.

One common strategy is to use a bronchodilator medication, such as albuterol, before exercise to open up the airways. Other strategies include warming up gradually and choosing activities that are less likely to trigger symptoms, such as swimming or cycling instead of running. Pay attention to warning signs such as chest tightness or difficulty breathing and stop activity immediately if symptoms occur.


For people with asthma, stress and strong emotions can make the condition worse. Emotions such as anxiety, excitement, or anger can trigger an episode by causing airway inflammation and constriction. This is because stress causes the body to release hormones like adrenaline, which can affect the immune system and the respiratory system.

Managing stress levels is crucial to preventing asthma flare-ups and keeping the condition under control. One way to manage stress is to practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. Another is to reduce exposure to triggers. This might mean avoiding certain situations, like public speaking or confrontation, or developing coping mechanisms for those situations.

Having a good support system in place can also help, whether that means turning to family and friends or seeking professional help from a therapist or support group. Talking about stress with someone who understands can help alleviate feelings of isolation and anxiety and provide valuable insight into how best to manage symptoms.

How Can an Air Purifier Improve Asthma Symptoms?

People with asthma are often exposed to a variety of triggers that can exacerbate their symptoms. One of the most common triggers for asthma is poor air quality. This can include pollutants such as smoke, dust, and allergens, which can irritate the airways.

One way to combat poor air quality is to use an air purifier. These devices work by removing pollutants and allergens from the air, which can improve asthma symptoms and reduce the risk of attacks.

Air purifiers use a variety of filters to capture pollutants and allergens from the air. The most common types of filters include HEPA filters, activated carbon filters, and electrostatic filters. HEPA filters are particularly effective at removing particles from the air, including dust, pollen, and pet dander. Activated carbon filters can remove odors and chemicals from the air, while electrostatic filters use a static charge to capture particles.

Air purifiers are not a replacement for asthma treatments such as medication. However, they can be a useful addition to an asthma management plan. When selecting an air purifier, choose a model with a HEPA filter and an appropriate room size rating, and make sure you regularly clean and replace the filters to ensure optimal performance.


Asthma is a chronic condition that affects millions of people. While there is currently no cure, there are a variety of treatments that can help people manage their symptoms and reduce the risk of asthma attacks.

One of the most important steps in managing asthma is identifying and avoiding triggers including indoor allergens, respiratory infections, physical activity, airway inflammation, air pollution, physical activity, and stress.

In addition, using air purifiers to improve indoor air quality can help manage asthma. By incorporating these things into the management of their condition, people with asthma can live a happy, healthy life.

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