People with asthma have airways that are more sensitive or irritable than other people. What bothers your lungs to is unique to you. It might be different from your brother, sister, mum, dad or friends if they have asthma.  

You have 2 lungs in your chest that are filled with lots of airways.  The lungs job is to move air in and out of our body so you can breathe. People who have asthma can have sensitive or twitchy airways. When your lungs are bothered, they can get red and swollen inside. The muscles around your lungs can start to squeeze tight. This makes it harder to breathe.  

The things that bother your lungs and make it hard to breathe are called triggers.  

You could call triggers the villains of the asthma world. 

Ask your doctor to include instructions on your written Asthma Action Plan for each of your villains.  

Professor Virus (Colds and Flu)

Getting sick is no fun. Professor Virus likes to make kids sick, especially at the start of school and in winter.  

For people with asthma, a cold can be worse than just a runny nose and a cough. Colds and other viruses are the most common trigger for asthma symptoms. 

Most of the time a cold doesn’t need any medicine. You just need to rest and let your body fight it.  

Sometimes a saline nose spray can help clear out your nose so you can breathe easier too. Saline is just salty water, so it’s very safe. 

But sometimes it can be really hard to tell if your cough is from a cold or from your asthma. This can make your parents or carers really worried. If you think it might be asthma, you should use your reliever puffer (usually blue) like you normally do. If it doesn’t work and your cough isn’t going away, you will need to see your doctor. 

If your doctor has given you an asthma preventer, it’s important you follow their instructions and take them every day even when you are well. Normally preventers are prescribed long term, maybe for all of winter, or all year round. They can take 2-4 weeks to start working properly. So if you stop and start taking them only when you have a cold, they don’t get time to kick in fully. 

Best defence: 

You can’t really avoid Professor Virus, but you can try to stop him catching you: 

  • Wash your hands before you eat or touch your face, eyes or nose 
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or elbow 
  • Avoid crowded spaces where possible – especially where people have colds 
  • Have the flu vaccine every year 
  • Keep physical distance from others 
  • Stay home from school and sport when unwell 
  • Clean or replace your spacer after you’ve been sick with a virus 
  • Take good care of your asthma all year round. Like taking your asthma preventer if you have one. 
  • Follow your asthma action plan

Flu Vaccine (Immunisation)

One of the best ways to fight Professor Virus is by having the flu vaccine every year. This is a vaccine that helps stop you getting the flu (influenza). The flu is different every year, so you need a new vaccine every year to make sure your body knows how to fight the new flu.

Everyone with asthma and their family members should get the flu vaccine every year. You can have the flu vaccine from age 6 months.

Parents and Carers

Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for a free flu vaccination under the National Immunisation Program. 

To find out more about flu and the National Immunisation Program: 

  • Call the National Immunisation Hotline: 1800 671 811 
  • Visit the Department of Health’s immunisation website at health.gov.au/immunisation 

You can read our COVID-19 vaccine and asthma FAQ’s here

Master Evil Chill (Cold, Dry Air)

Master Evil Chill creates cold, dry air. He is most active when the weather starts to change into winter, in cold early mornings, and when it gets cool and dark at night. 

Cold and dry air can bother your lungs. This can make it hard to breathe.  

Best defence:  

  • Wear a scarf or face mask when it is cold. This can help protect you a little from the cold air 
  • Don’t go outside to play in the early morning or cold evening 

Scent Ninja

Scent Ninja targets your nose. Things you breathe in can trigger your asthma or your hay fever or both! Lots of kids with asthma also have hay fever which is a type of allergy. Hay fever can feel like itchy eyes, a runny nose and sneezing lots. It could also make you snore at night, and seem like you have a cold all the time, even if you don’t! 

Scent Ninja is extra sneaky because they can attack at any time of the year. Scent Ninja’s weapons include: 

  • Pollen 
  • Animals like cats and horses 
  • Dust 
  • Dust mites 
  • Smoke of all kinds 
  • Strong smells like cleaning chemicals 
  • Other triggers unique to you 

Best defence 

If you can figure out what triggers your hay fever or asthma is to avoid them as much as you can. 

Depending how old you are, and how bad your triggers are, your doctor might be able to prescribe something to help. This could be a nasal spray, medicine or even a tablet. 

Parents and Carers

You can read more about hay fever treatments here or call our Asthma Educators on 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462).

Sneaky Smoky

In winter or when you are camping, you might have a fire to warm up or cook marshmallows. Your neighbours might light a fire in their fireplace. Sneaky Smoky likes to make lots of smoke. Even if the fire is next door, smoke can come out the chimney and towards you. Smoke is very bad for your lungs, and can trigger your asthma. 

Other types of smoke like cigarette smoke are also really bad for your lungs. 

Best defence: 

It is best to avoid wood fires and other smoke as much as possible. 

If your neighbours are using a wood fire, your parents or carers can try asking them to stop, and explain how the smoke is hurting you.

Parents and Carers

We hope that your neighbours are kind to you and your children. However if you need to take it further, you can contact your local council or your state’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA). You can also visit our wood fire smoke advocacy page to see how you can help create change for your children. 

Health experts recommend electric heater, as they do not release emissions into the interior air. 

Pollution Pirate

Pollution Pirate makes the air yucky to breathe. Their weapons are bush fires, car and truck fumes, and fumes from industries like mining. Pollution Pirate also helps climate change, which makes our Earth warmer which can cause lots of problems for our health too. 

Inside your home, gas stoves, gas heaters and other things that run on gas can also trigger your asthma. The fumes are invisible and you can’t smell them, but they still get into your lungs. These gas fumes have a big impact on kids’ asthma even more than adults. 

Best defence: 

Yucky air is really hard to avoid. You can try keeping your doors and windows closed in your house, and especially in your bedroom so the air stays clean inside. Also keep your windows shut in the car, and have the air-con set to ‘recirculate’.  

In the kitchen, if your house has a gas stove, see if your parents or carers have an electric frypan or hotplate they can use instead when you are around. If there is no other option, try to stay out of the kitchen when the gas is in use, and make sure the exhaust fan above the stove is used during cooking.

Parents and Carers

Outside air pollution: To learn more about air pollution and monitoring see our Air Nutrition page here: https://asthma.org.au/air-nutrition/  

Inside air pollution: Check out our tips for minimising gas in the home here: https://asthma.org.au/blog/gas-impacts-on-health/  

Agent Breathless (Physical Activity)

Physical activity and playing can make you feel more breathless than usual if you have asthma. Physical activity is one of the most common triggers for kids. But this doesn’t mean you can’t do it! In fact, it is really important that you play and exercise everyday to help keep your lungs and body healthy. 

Best defence:  

It’s best not to play outside early in the morning or in the evening, because the cold air can also trigger your asthma. Don’t exercise if you are sick with a cough or a cold.  When you do exercise or play sport, make sure to do a warmup beforehand and cool down afterwards.  

To protect you from Agent Breathless, your doctor might tell you to take some of your reliever before you play or do physical activity. If they do, you might need to ask the teacher for your inhaler before you do your sport or PE classes at school. Or if your doctor and parents are sure you can take your inhaler by yourself, they might ask the teacher to let you keep your inhaler with you. Make sure you ALWAYS use a spacer if your inhaler is a puffer.  

Parents and Carers

Instructions to use a reliever before exercise should be included on your child’s Asthma Action Plan for school or day care if this has been approved by their doctor.


Flo, E-Chamber, and Sanofi are campaign partners of Asthma Australia and have not been involved in the development of this webpage.