10 Triggers to Avoid this Christmas Season

Last updated: May 2018

Christmas season is upon us. There’s so much fun to have this time of year. You don’t want something unexpected - like a COPD flare-up - to ruin that fun. So, that’s why I made this list: 

10 triggers to be wary of this Holiday season

  1. Children. The greatest joy of life! A problem with children is that, along with joy, they are also good at spreading germs. This is especially true with the smallest children, like babies. You’ll definitely want to snuggle with them and kiss their little cheeks. You might even get lucky and get a sloppy kiss yo back. Make sure they aren’t sick with sniffles and sneezes when they’re around you.
  2. Cold air. It tends to be dry and holds very little water. So, dry air tends to irritate airways, and it may trigger flare-ups. This is especially true if you’re rushing along out in the freezing cold outdoor air. The easiest way to avoid this trigger is to stay inside where it’s warm. Still, there will be times you’ll need to go outdoors. A common tip here is to dress warm and place a scarf over your mouth and nose. Your exhaled air will warm and humidify inhaled air.
  3. Scarves. Dust mites are pesky little bugs that you can’t see with the naked eye. They love to eat flakes of skin. So, they live on pretty much anything handled by humans. This includes winter clothing, jackets, gloves, and scarves. A good example here is that scarf described in #2 above. A good tip is to wash that scarf before using it. This is a key tip here, as otherwise the same scarf used to avoid one trigger may cause you to inhale another. Another reason I mention dust.
  4. Decorations. Like scarves, they don’t trigger COPD by themselves. But, they tend to collect dust mites that can become aerosolized and inhaled. One tip here is to have someone else put up decorations. Another tip is to store them in airtight plastic containers. Dust mites can’t get into airtight containers.
  5. Real Christmas trees. Some people can be allergic to the trees themselves. Trees also have a tendency to collect pollen and mold spores. These can be easily aerosolized and inhaled. They can trigger flare-ups. So, this is something to be leery of. A tip here is to wash the tree before you bring it into your home. You can rinse it off outside using the water hose. It might be preferable to let someone else do this job. This should remove most of the pollen at least.
  6. Fake Christmas trees. Again, like scarves and ornaments, they won’t trigger flare-ups on their own. But, they can become breeding grounds for dust mites. As with putting up ornaments, you can avoid putting up fake trees. Or, another good tip is to store them in an air-tight plastic container.
  7. Eating. There’s often lots of food around the Holiday season. I’m not going to tell you to avoid it. No! I wouldn’t do that. But, eating too much can cause bloating. A bloated stomach may push up on your diaphragm, making less room to inhale. This can make it hard to breathe for some. Eating too much can also cause acid reflux, another COPD trigger. A good tip here is to eat small portions. Another tip is to enjoy small portions of all the good offerings now. Then wait a few hours before enjoying a small part of apple pie.
  8. Scented candles and incense. They are great for creating a nice milieu in your home. The problem is that the smoke created may irritate your airways. Smoke and strong smells may trigger flare-ups. So, it might be best to avoid these sorts of things.
  9. Fireplaces. There’s nothing like sitting by the warm, crackling fire. But, they are prone to create wood smoke. Not much enters the home, but some probably will. For some, the worse part of wood fires is not even the fire itself, but the wood. It’s usually piled close by the fireplace. Like Christmas trees, it’s often covered with molds and other triggers.
  10. Other people’s homes. So, you’ve managed to make your home COPD trigger proof. But, this may not be the case at the homes you intend to visit this holiday season. Some homes have pets that may harbor triggers. Some homes have scented candles and potpourri. Some homes have fireplaces. Some homes have sick kids. So, I’m certainly not going to tell you to avoid visiting people. What I will say is to be careful and play it safe. You’ll want to make sure the homes you are visiting are COPD safe.

That’s my list. These are all things that have the potential to cause grief for COPDers. So, these are just some things to watch out for this holiday season. Here’s wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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