Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Long roll of paper with a long written list on it

Common COPD Triggers

Triggers are things that cause flare-ups. They are usually things outside your body or the environment around you. Although they can also be things occurring inside your body. Some triggers are common and are shared by many people with COPD. Other triggers are unique to the certain individuals. So, I thought it would be neat to make a list of as many COPD triggers we can think of. So, here we go! See if you can spot any of your triggers from this list.

Do any of these trigger your COPD?

  • Strong emotions, such as laughter
  • Strong emotions, such as sadness or crying
  • Feelings of anxiety or worry
  • Strong smells, such as those in the detergent aisles in stores
  • Strong smells, such as colognes and perfumes
  • Tree pollen
  • Grass pollen
  • Ragweed pollen
  • Other pollen
  • Mold spores
  • Dust
  • Dust mites
  • Too hot (studies show that heat itself can be a COPD trigger)
  • Too cold (it cause air to be too dry and this can irritate airways)
  • Humidity (it causes air to feel heavy and hard to inhale)
  • Hot and humid air, such as during the summer months
  • Gastrointestinal reflux (GERD)
  • First hand tobacco smoke
  • Second hand tobacco smoke
  • Third hand tobacco smoke (tobacco residue left on furniture or clothing)
  • Wood smoke from fireplaces
  • Wood smoke from wood stoves or cooking stoves
  • Wood smoke from fire pits
  • Wood smoke from burning leaves
  • Outdoor air pollution, such as from car exhaust
  • When you over exert yourself or do too much exercise at once (You can learn how best to exercise with COPD when participating in pulmonary rehabilitation)
  • Forgetting to take your medicine
  • Forgetting to wear your oxygen, if you wear oxygen
  • Cleaning sprays and disinfectants (you can make safe cleaning solutions)
  • Hand sanitizers (this is unique to some individuals I’ve met)
  • Respiratory viruses, such as those that cause your common cold
  • Respiratory viruses, such as those that cause influenza
  • Respiratory bacteria, such as those that cause pneumonia
  • Chemicals, dust, or fumes, such as in the air at your work
  • Dust from vacuum cleaners
  • Dust from dirt roads
  • Weather changes, such from clear and sunny to rainy
  • Sudden weather pressure changes
  • Thunder storms
  • Animal dander, such as from cats, dogs, horses, Guinea Pigs, Gerbils, and Hamsters,
  • Scented candles
  • Incense, as they give off strong smells and smoke
  • Fireplaces, and this includes wood smoke and mold on wood stored by them
  • Wood stoves (smoke and mold from wood)
  • Paint fumes
  • Mildew
  • Hairspray
  • Essential oils (some find them helpful, and others find them to be triggers)
  • Kerosene
  • New carpet smell
  • Poor sleep
  • Stress of any sorts, including family stress, stress from the death of a loved one, etc.

What to make of this list of COPD triggers

This is a list of as many COPD triggers that I could think of. I imagine we could make this list twice as long as it is. This is because COPD is a heterogeneous disease, meaning that it affects each person in unique ways. What triggers a flare-up in one person may be harmless to another person. And there are also some triggers that are unique to certain individuals. So, what are your triggers? Do you have triggers that are unique to you? Please share in the comments below.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • WandaT
    3 months ago

    A lot of items on your list trigger me, but two of my worst are chopping onions and pouring the hot vinegar down the drain after cleaning my coffee maker. Both of those really surprised me the first time it happened.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    2 months ago

    As noted by Lyn and Leon, thanks for sharing your experiences with asthma triggers. Yes, onions. I should add that to our next list. Thanks. John. Author/ Site Moderator.

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi Wanda –
    The different food odors that can trigger people is always surprising to me. Thanks for sharing that.
    – Lyn (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi again, WandaT and thanks for sharing your significant triggers with the community. We appreciate your input and are glad to have you as part of our community. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • Gadget
    3 months ago

    Unstoppables, whoa! People get carried away with those!

    It’s sad that there isn’t better empathy for us. We need to wear big yellow signs that say, “STAND BACK 10 FT!”
    Of course if it is not on their phone, they probably won’t see it.. ha!

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi again, Gadget – glad you got a chuckle out of all this. A sense of humor can go a long, long way towards helping to manage this condition. Warm regards, Leon (site moderator)

  • Rex1
    3 months ago

    Have you heard of the boy living in a bubble. With all the triggers you mentioned. Seams like that’s the only safe place.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    We hear you Rex! As Michelle has said, the best practice is to do everything one can to avoid one’s own personal triggers! All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • michelle.vincent moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi Rex1,

    It seems like it sometimes. There are an awful lot of potential triggers! Thank goodness there are things we can do to avoid them, or lessen their impact. Take care, Michelle (site moderator)

  • GrannyT1
    3 months ago

    Oh my yes. Mold is my worse one and perfume….forget it people. Ban it.

  • michelle.vincent moderator
    3 months ago

    Thanks for your input, GrannyT1. I can relate; mold is probably my worst trigger too. Warmly, Michelle (site moderator)

  • WillDoe
    3 months ago

    Hi John
    Using the vacuum cleaner. It either stirs up the air or recycles it.
    But about 20 minutes later, it smells fresh!
    So when I vac, I leave the room and return about a half an hour later.


  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi WillDoe and we hear you. You may want to try to protect your upper airway by wearing a mask of some type as a barrier, when you are vacuuming. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • michelle.vincent moderator
    3 months ago

    Thanks for the tip on vacuuming, WillDoe. I have trouble with it too. Take care, Michelle (site moderator)

  • Linda
    3 months ago

    There are about 6 things on this list that trigger my copd. The rest don’t bother me as much. Thanks for this list. It has enabled me to make MY OWN list and this way I can try to eliminate things.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi again, Linda, and thanks for replying to John’s article. We’re glad it was a functional list for you. The more you are aware of your condition (in your case, the 6 triggers), the better able you will be to manage by avoiding the particular triggers. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • Poll