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Home & Health

Asthma Triggers

Many homes contain hazards, like mold and dust mites, that trigger and exacerbate asthma symptoms. Forty percent of asthma episodes are caused by preventable triggers in the home.

The Facts

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung condition that affects the airways and the way a person breathes. It is a condition that can only be treated, not cured. An average of one out of every 10 school-aged children has asthma.1

Asthma afflicts 25.7 million Americans yearly and causes:

  • 774,000 emergency room visits2
  • More than $56 billion in economic costs3
  • 14 million school days are missed each year and it is the leading medical cause of school absences for children ages 5 through 74
  • The 40 percent of asthma episodes that are caused by housing-based triggers represent $5 billion lost annually in preventable medical costs5


Asthma can be triggered by a variety of sources. These sources include:

  • Mold, which can grow on any surface and particularly in damp areas,
  • Dust mites, which are tiny bugs that can live in fabrics such as sheets, blankets, pillows, mattresses, furniture, carpets, and stuffed animal toys,
  • Smoke from cigarettes, pipes, or cigars; and wood-burning stoves and fireplaces which can contain a mixture of harmful gases and small particles,
  • Cockroaches and other pests, which leave droppings that can trigger asthma behind,
  • Nitrogen dioxide, an odorless gas that can come from the use of appliances (such as stoves and/or space heaters) that burn fuels,
  • Chemical irritants (VOCs), which can be found in everyday household products like cleaning items, paint, adhesives, pesticides, cosmetics, and air fresheners.


Asthma can lead to many negative effects, including:

  • Shortness of breath: feeling out of breath or the inability to release all the air from lungs
  • Chest tightening: a sensation of a weight on the chest or squeezing
  • Wheezing: difficulty breathing with a squeaky, whistling noise
  • Coughing: usually worse at night and in the early morning, often making it difficult to sleep

Actions You Can Take

  • If someone in your home is experiencing chronic coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath, see a doctor. If these symptoms increase in the home, especially at night, home-based asthma triggers may be the cause. Create an Asthma Action Plan with your doctor to help manage and control asthma attacks. Learn about common asthma triggers and how you can control or remove them from your home.

Do you live in Maryland? Learn about GHHI’s Resident Education Services to learn control asthma triggers in the home.


Contact GHHI to see how you can keep your home safe from asthma triggers.