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Things that can irritate airways and lead to an asthma flare-up can vary from season to season and as kids get older. Common triggers include:

  • allergens, including microscopic dust mites present in house dust, carpets, and pillows; animal dander and saliva; pollens and grasses; molds; foods; medications; and cockroaches

  • viral infections, including the common cold and the flu

  • irritants, including smoke, air fresheners, aerosols, paint fumes, hair spray, and perfumes

  • exercise

  • breathing in cold air

  • weather changes

Identifying triggers and symptoms can take time and good detective work. But once patterns are discovered, some of the triggers can be avoided through environmental control measures.

Anticipating and Preventing Flare-Ups

Many kids with asthma have increased inflammation in their airways from everyday trigger exposure — but they just can’t feel it. Their breathing may sound normal and wheeze-free when their airways are actually narrowing and becoming inflamed, making them prone to a flare-up.


Since just listening to a child’s breathing (or asking how the breathing feels) can’t give an accurate sense of what’s happening inside, a better way to measure breathing is needed. One way to measure breathing is by using an instrument called a spirometer, a computerized machine that measures the amount of air inhaled or exhaled and how much time each breath takes.

Anticipating Flare-Ups at Home

At home, a peak flow meter — a handheld tool that measures breathing ability — can be used. When peak flow readings drop, it’s a sign of increasing airway inflammation. The peak flow meter can detect even subtle airway inflammation and obstruction — even when a child feels fine. In some cases, it can detect drops in peak flow readings 2 to 3 days before a flare-up occurs, providing plenty of time to treat and prevent it. Our goal is for the child/family is for them to become comfortable in self-managing asthma. The asthma action plan which is different for each child developed specifically for a child may be shared with the school and guides the child/ teacher and parent what to do between flare-ups and how to recognize and manage them if they occur.
References: [1]Asthma symptoms and triggers. Allergy & Asthma Network. (2022, November 11). [2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, December 12). Common asthma triggers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [3] Elidemir, O. (Ed.). (2019, February). Managing Asthma. Nemours KidsHealth.