skip to content, health centers and clinics, search, accessibility statement


Asthma is a chronic or long term lung disease that inflames and narrows a person’s airways. Asthma causes chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing, and recurring periods of wheezing (a whistling sound when a person breaths). The coughing can occur anytime of the day or night.

Your doctor can help you find out what things, often called triggers, can cause your asthma and worsen asthma symptoms. Triggers include:

  • Allergens from dust, animal fur, cockroaches, mold, and pollen from trees, grasses, and flowers
  • Irritants like cigarette smoke, air pollution, chemicals, or dust in the workplace, fumes in home furnishings and sprays
  • Medicines including aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and nonselective beta-blockers
  • Sulfites in food and drinks
  • Viral upper respiratory infections like colds and flu
  • Certain physical activities

Other health conditions can make managing asthma difficult. These include sinus infections, acid reflux disease, psychological stress, and a runny nose. Asthma is different for each individual and therefore some of the triggers listed above may not affect everyone who has asthma.