Avoiding COPD Triggers

Expert Answers: Avoiding COPD Triggers

One thing people can do to stay healthier and decrease the risk of COPD flare-ups is to avoid contact with irritants that trigger exacerbations. At COPD.net, we understand that avoiding triggers can be quite a challenge, so we asked our experts John, Leon, and Lyn to share their advice on the following question:

How do I avoid things that trigger my COPD?


The first thing to do is learn what might trigger your COPD. It can be a simple as a common allergen (dust, pollen, mold, fungus, animals), strong smells such as those from household cleaners, high humidity, or even something as complicated as air pollution. You need to learn what exactly sets off your COPD flare-ups so you know what to avoid. For example, if dogs trigger your COPD, you can easily keep them out of your home. If high humidity bothers your COPD, you can purchase an air conditioner. If strong smells bother your COPD, avoid the laundry row at shopping centers.


Not all patients are subject to the same irritants. What causes a flare up in one patient may not cause a flare up in another. Each patient should understand which specific triggers affect them individually.

Triggers or irritants can include but are certainly not limited to:

  • Smoking,
  • Infections (like a cold or flu),
  • Strong odors or fumes (like car exhausts, colognes and perfumes),
  • Air pollution and smog,
  • Changes in weather, very cold or very humid air, and
  • Stress or anxiety.

Once you know what triggers a flare up, the key is to avoid the irritants. This is seemingly obvious but not always easy to accomplish. Understanding your condition and taking it seriously will assist in the desire to avoid flare-ups and thereby steer clear of triggers.

Suggested Guidelines:

  • Do not smoke (or try to quit smoking). Stay away from places where people are smoking. Avoid smoke from cooking.
  • Try not to spend time with people who have a cold, sore throat, the flu, or pneumonia. Ask your physician about getting flu and pneumonia shots.
  • If possible, try not to sit in traffic or go outdoors where there are air pollution alerts.
  • In cold weather, cover your nose and mouth with a scarf. Breathe through your nose.
  • In hot, humid weather or days with smog, stay indoors. Stay in air conditioned rooms when possible.
  • Don't breathe in fumes from perfumes, paint or cleaning products. Avoid breathing in dust.
  • Learn ways to relax and avoid stress.


Everyone has different triggers, so it’s important to determine what yours are. Air pollution, smoking, a developing infection, or changes in weather are just a few that might prompt an exacerbation of your COPD. Obviously, some can be avoided while others cannot. So, avoid the ones you can and be prepared to deal with the ones you can’t. As soon as you notice symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, or coughing seek treatment. It may be as simple as taking an extra nebulizer or it may prompt a visit to your physician.

How about you? Do you have specific ways of avoiding your COPD triggers? Please feel free to tell the COPD.net community by sharing your comments below!

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