COPD triggers image of lungs trees and smoke

COPD triggers are often hiding in plain sight. In today's world, we know to wash our hands frequently, avoid large crowds and stay away from sick people to try to prevent getting the novel coronavirus. The virus can cause coughing, a fever, and shortness of breath, which may lead to severe symptoms in someone with COPD. But there are other triggers to worry about besides just COVID-19.

From the temperature in the air to the perfume you wear, they can make you cough, wheeze and have more shortness of breath than usual.

That's why it's important to learn – and then avoid – these pesky irritants as much as possible.

Here are five of the most common triggers and how to escape them:

  • Cigarette smoke – Quitting smoking is the number one thing you can do to prevent COPD from getting worse. Also avoid second hand smoke. Any kind of tobacco smoke can affect your lungs, including vaping and e-cigarettes. Avoid any kind of smoke, especially if you are on oxygen.
  • Extreme temperatures – Extreme cold and extreme hot temperatures can take a toll on your lungs. Limit your time outdoors when the temperature is very high or low. If you must go outside in cold weather, cover your mouth and nose with a scarf. When it is extremely hot, your provider may recommend that you have air conditioners and fans in your home to cool down the air.
  • Humidity – Run the exhaust fan in the bathroom when you take a shower or a bath to decrease the amount of moisture in the air. If the humidity is high outside, stay indoors. Our providers also recommend that people with COPD have dehumidifiers in their homes.
  • Air pollution – Car and gas pump fumes, smoke from the fireplace and cooking fumes and smells can all be triggers. Avoid being near them when possible, and make sure your house is well ventilated. Also: check air quality forecasts before leaving the house.
  • Allergens – Pet dander, dust, mold and pollen can make your COPD worse. Vacuum daily to reduce dust and dander (tiny flecks of skin shed by animals with fur or feathers). Get rid of clutter and dust furniture often. On days when the pollen count is high (usually spring and fall), limit the time you are outdoors.
  • Chemicals and sprays – Cleaning products and paints can irritate COPD, as can perfumes, hair sprays, scented candles and air fresheners. Use non-toxic, natural cleaning products and skip the scented body products if they trigger a reaction.

By knowing your COPD triggers and then avoiding them, you will feel better and have more energy to do the things you enjoy all year round.