Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Asthma symptoms include a cough, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness.

Asthma symptoms include a cough, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness.
beginning of content

What causes asthma?

2-minute read

Factors that are known to increase the likelihood of developing asthma include:

  • a family history of asthma or other related allergic conditions (known as 'atopic conditions'), such as eczema, food allergy or hay fever
  • developing another atopic condition
  • being exposed to tobacco smoke as a child, particularly if your mother smoked during pregnancy
  • having bronchiolitis (a lung infection) as a child
  • being born prematurely (especially if you needed a ventilator)
  • being born with a low birth weight (less than 2kg)
  • being exposed to indoor and outdoor pollution (including moulds, gases, chemicals, particles and cigarette smoke)

The symptoms of asthma can have a range of triggers:

  • infections of the airways and chest
  • allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, animal fur or feathers
  • airborne irritants, such as cigarette smoke, chemical fumes and pollution
  • some painkillers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen
  • emotional factors, such as stress or laughing
  • foods containing sulphites, such as concentrated fruit juice, jam, prawns and many processed or pre-cooked meals
  • weather conditions, such as sudden change in temperature, cold air, windy days, poor air quality and hot, humid days
  • indoor conditions, such as mould or damp, house dust mites and chemicals in carpets and flooring materials
  • exposure to some chemicals at work
  • exercise, especially while breathing air that is polluted, cold or dry

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2018


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

An overview of asthma: Causes, symptoms, medications, support | myVMC

Asthma is a common respiratory condition often caused by allergies. There are many risk factors, tests for diagnosing and medications for treating asthma.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Asthma | Nutrition Australia

What is asthma? Asthma is a condition which occurs when the airways become inflamed and narrow, making it hard to breathe. It can cause episodes of wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing, particularly in the early morning and evening.

Read more on Nutrition Australia website

Asthma Triggers & Causes - Asthma Australia

There are many triggers for asthma attacks in the world around us and the activities we enjoy. Learn more about what sets off an asthma attack and how to manage the triggers.

Read more on Asthma Australia website

Causes of asthma in children and teenagers | Raising Children Network

Asthma is when a childs airway passages are narrowed, which means the child doesnt get enough air into and out of her lungs. Read about causes of asthma.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Treating Asthma in Children - Asthma Australia

How to treat Asthma in Children Once a diagnosis of asthma is determined, the doctor will discuss how best to treat your child

Read more on Asthma Australia website

Asthma in children

Find out more about the signs and symptoms of asthma, aids and tips to help you care for your child and what to do if your child has an asthma attack.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Dust storms and asthma - National Asthma Council Australia

High levels of dust can irritate the lungs and cause an asthma flare up.

Read more on National Asthma Council Australia website

Asthma Flare Ups in Children - Asthma Australia

Asthma Flare-Ups Flare-ups do happen, and in children they are most often caused by colds and flu

Read more on Asthma Australia website

Asthma and Allergy - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

Allergy plays an important role in asthma, as one of the key factors that can cause asthma and make it worse.

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

Asthma is a treatable health condition - National Asthma Council Australia

The key to living with asthma is keeping it under control - learn about what causes your symptoms, how to avoid these triggers and how to use your medications

Read more on National Asthma Council Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo