Breathe deeply and live better by understanding what triggers your asthma

Vermont is among the highest in the nation in asthma prevalence rates, with 68,000 adults and 8,800 children with current asthma. More than half of those children have uncontrolled asthma, putting them at greater risk of missed school and asthma-related emergencies.

Asthma is serious, but you can reduce its effect by identifying and reducing the triggers that lead to asthma attacks. A trigger is anything that irritates your airways. It can be unique to each person and can include tobacco smoke and e-cigarette emissions, outdoor and indoor air pollution like diesel exhaust, fireplace smoke, dust mites, and pet dander.

Secondhand Smoke

There is no safe exposure to secondhand smoke or e-cigarette emissions. Smoke of all types, especially tobacco smoke, is a common trigger for people with asthma, especially children and babies. Breathing just a small amount of secondhand smoke that contains thousands of chemicals can cause a severe asthma attack. Emissions from vaping contains ultrafine particles, metals, and toxins that are known to trigger an asthma attack.

Tips for tackling asthma triggers

Small changes can make big differences

Create a smoke-free home
  • Designate a smoking or vaping area outdoors away from your entry area and places where your family spends time. Keep a sealed trash bin in the area to collect butts.
  • When you smoke or vape, toxic chemicals are released into the air and can cling to your clothes. Store clothes, coats, and hats that have been worn when smoking away from family members. Request that visitors who smoke leave their coats and belongings in the car or outside.
  • If looking for a new place to live in multi-unit housing, find one that has become smoke- and vape-free.


Scents and fragrances can trigger an attack
  • Avoid scents and fragrances like perfumes, scented candles, air fresheners, essential oils, purifiers, and cleaning products. No fragrance removes smoke; they just mask it.
  • Switch to fragrance-free products.


Make your car a smoke-free zone

Reminder: In Vermont, it’s illegal to smoke or vape in your car with a child aged 7 or younger

  • The volume of air in your car is small, and smoking or vaping in your car can fill the air, seats, and other materials with toxins, even if the windows are open.
  • Remind passengers not to smoke in your car.
  • If you have an ashtray, fill it with spare change or gum to resist the urge to smoke. Store your cigarettes and vaping supplies in your trunk when driving.
802 Quits
And finally, the most effective way to reduce asthma triggers is to quit all forms of smoking and vaping

When you're ready to quit, the free services at increase your chances of success. Through 802Quits you can talk with a coach, customize a quit plan, and get free nicotine replacement gum, patches, or lozenges shipped right to your door. You may even qualify to earn cash value rewards - up to $250 - while you try to quit.

Visit or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW

FAQs on Asthma

What is Asthma and Who Has It?

Asthma is a chronic (long-term) disease in which the lungs become inflamed and airways narrow and react to "triggers”. Asthma can impact anyone.

What Causes Asthma, or an Asthma Attack?

It is not clearly known why or how people develop asthma. Research suggests that a combination of family genes and environmental exposures produce asthma.

Asthma can begin in early childhood or may first appear later in life. Not all childhood asthma continues into adulthood.

Family history of asthma, respiratory infections in young children, exposure to tobacco smoke during pregnancy and the first years of life, occupational exposures, house dust mites, air pollution, or cockroach droppings are a few of the things that may lead to asthma. An asthma “trigger” is anything that inflames your airways and flares your symptoms—like tobacco smoke, dust, viral infections, cold weather, pet dander, pests (like cockroaches and mice), pollen and mold and strong fumes.

There are many kinds of triggers, and triggers may be different for different people. Pet dander, tobacco smoke, air pollution, pollens, mold, mildew and dust are common triggers. When the lungs become irritated, the airways swell and mucus builds up, causing shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, chest pain or tightness, tiredness or a combination of these symptoms.

What should you do if you think you or a loved one has asthma?

  • See your health care provider as soon as possible and talk with them about your symptoms.
  • Reduce exposure to common triggers like dust, mold, and pet hair.
  • Monitor your or your loved one’s symptoms closely. If their symptoms become severe, see a doctor.
Last Updated: