6 Common Lung Disease Triggers

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Having COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) can sometimes make it hard to breathe. Triggers can make breathing even harder. Triggers are substances or other things that make your symptoms worse. Here are six common triggers you will want to watch for—and what you can do to avoid them. 

1. Stay Away from Smoke

Smoke is one of the most common triggers for COPD. This includes smoking yourself or breathing in secondhand smoke. If you smoke, talk with your doctor about ways to quit. And try to stay away from other people who are smoking. Do not allow smoking in your home or car. You should also avoid smoke from burning leaves, campfires, and wood-burning stoves and fireplaces.

2. Don't Use Products With Strong Fumes

Breathing in chemicals or strong fumes can also make COPD worse. Some common culprits include:

  • Air fresheners
  • Candles
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Hairspray
  • Incense
  • Insect spray
  • Paint
  • Perfumes

Try to keep these products out of your home. If you need to paint or spray for insects, have these tasks done when you are not at home. Consider hiring someone to clean your house or shift that chore to another household member. And find somewhere else to be while the cleaning gets done. 

3. Keep an Eye on Air Pollution and Weather Changes

It is a good idea to check the air quality index before you go outside. You may want to close your windows and consider running your furnace fan or air conditioner to filter the air. Limit outdoor activities on days when the air quality is not good. Weather conditions that can affect breathing include:

  • High humidity
  • High pollen counts
  • Smog
  • Very cold or very hot temperatures
  • Windy or stormy weather

If you must go out in these conditions, try covering your nose and mouth with a scarf.

4. Control Dust and Dust Mites

Even homes that seem clean can harbor dust and dust mites—microscopic creatures that feed off flakes of dead skin. Dust and dust mites are often found on bedding, carpeting, pillows, curtains, and upholstered furniture. You can limit the tiny critters by taking these steps:

  • Limit dust-attracting décor—remove carpeting and avoid drapes and throw pillows. When possible, buy furniture that is not upholstered.
  • Reduce dust in your bedroom—use mattress and pillow covers that protect against dust mites. You can find bedding that controls dust mites at local department stores, bed and bath stores, and superstores. And wash all bedding once a week in hot water.
  • Reduce the humidity in your home—keep your home’s humidity below 50%. Dust mites thrive in humid areas. Using dehumidifiers and air conditioners can help.

5. Manage Your Allergies

Any type of allergy—whether it’s to pollen or pets—can make your COPD symptoms worse. Try to limit your exposure to anything that causes your allergies to flare. If you need help managing or identifying allergies, talk with your doctor. 

6. Avoid Getting Sick

Colds, the flu, and other types of respiratory infections can all trigger a flare-up of your COPD symptoms. Your best defense against these illnesses is to get a flu vaccine every year and ask your doctor if you need a vaccine for pneumonia. You should also wash your hands often and avoid people who are sick.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Oct 17
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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