Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Make Your Body COPD Friendly

Make Your Body COPD Friendly

Have you every wondered why your breathing is labored even though you have taken your meds, and are sitting relaxing? Or why you have headaches a lot, feel dizzy, uncoordinated, your eyes, mouth, or throat feel irritated and you can’t figure out why? I read complaints all the time from COPDers who have one or more of the things I mention and asking for help. Many say their doctors say they can’t find anything wrong. Well the answer just might be one of the many fragrances you have put on your body. I know you are going to say, that not my problem, I don’t use perfume. It’s not perfume I’m talking about. It could be one of the other scented products you put on your body every day, or it could be the person you live with. Since most COPDers don’t realize the further damage they could be doing to their lungs, they don’t think twice about using scented products. The truth is the more products that have a fragrance you use each day, the more COPD unfriendly your body is and without realizing it, the more damaged your lungs and labored your breathing could become.

On an average day, most people start putting scented products on their body in the shower/bath: scented body wash/soap, scented shampoo/conditioners, scented body lotion/skin softener cream, scented deodorants, scented shaving cream, scented hair gel or mousse, scented hair spray, scented face cream and makeup. And I can’t forget the scented fabric softener in your clothes; one of the worst offenders. It probably never occurred to you that the products I named could be bothersome to your COPD. Due to the pleasant smell of scented products most people believe they are harmless and do no damage to their lungs. What COPDers don’t realize is most fragrant-producing products contain many chemicals that are considered toxic. The abundance of harmful chemicals in perfumes, aftershaves, colognes, shampoos, conditioners, soaps, body lotions, deodorants and fabric softener go straight into our lungs when we breathe. That could be damaging to healthy lungs, for those of us with COPD it not only make most of us short of breath, but causes further damage to our already diseased lungs.

Fragrances are made of materials that quickly get into the air. You may not smell or notice fragrances in the products you use, but they are there. Many times materials are used to mask odors and the longer you are exposed the less acute your detection of scents will be. Even unscented or fragrance-free products may actually contain fragrance but use a chemical to mask the smell. That accounts for the fact that some COPDers, (like myself), that try their best to avoid scented products, (by using only those marked unscented or fragrance-free), still have a problem breathing.

These materials pose serious health concerns for many with COPD as well as other health conditions. As well as polluting our air, fragrance is absorbed directly through the skin. “Fragrance” is a generic term put on a label, which can mean the product contains essential oils, synthetics, solvents, and other chemicals. Since the FDA doesn’t require manufacturers to tell the public what chemicals they use, I have learned to avoid products that say “fragrance” and advised all COPDers to do the same. Your lungs will thank you for getting rid of the chemicals.

I use scent-free/fragrance-free personal care products or natural products when I can. If I do use a scented product I make sure it is not going to affect my breathing. The best thing for you to do is go as natural as possible. There are a lot of good sites online that carry all natural personal care products, but make sure to check the list of ingredients. Because a product says all natural it still may not be scent free. At one time perfume was made with flowers, herbs, and other natural ingredients, but not anymore. Today most fragrances are artificially produced. So if you want to make sure what you use is natural, make it yourself. You can find recipes online to make any homemade personal care products you want. Things like: Natural deodorant powder, made from baking powder and non-GMO cornstarch. Hair styling gel, dissolve one teaspoon of gelatin in one cup of water and chilling in the refrigerator before use. Aloe Vera as a smoothing cream for dry skin. Hair conditioning from mayonnaise and coconut oil or apple cider vinegar and water. Shampoo from baking soda and water. If you must have a sweet smelling product use a few drops of a high-quality organic essential oils.

If you’re not into homemade, you can get good information about personal care products from several sites. One I like is Skin Deep Database run by the Environmental Working Group, an American non-profit research organization. Some good organic personal care products are, Dr. Bronner’s liquid or bar soaps, Kiss My Face Fragrance-Free Olive Oil Soap, True Body Unscented Soap, and other glycerin or vegetable oil based soaps.

One last thing you could do is let your family and friends know that any fragrance they wear need to be kept to a minimum. I don’t know about any of you but when it comes to me and my COPD I’m highly sensitive to what other people are wearing/using. Last month my grandson started using a new deodorant the first time he came over to see me after putting it on, I had a tell him he either had to wash it off or he had to go home. As soon as he walked through my front door it took my breath away. Anyone that comes to see me knows, they don’t wear perfume, cologne, body lotions, aftershave and they don’t use fabric softener in the clothes they wear to my house. I have no problem telling people who violate those rules to leave I don’t care who they are. So if you want to breathe better, it may help to use as many unscented products as possible and stay away from aerosol sprays and people who use scent/fragrance in abundance. You may get an unexpected bonus from not using scented products. You might find that your headaches, dizziness, uncoordinated, irritated eyes, mouth, and throat feel better. Breathe deep and easy.

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.


  • LindaM
    3 years ago

    Mary ~ you are soooo right on. I first became aware of the problem in the hospital when they came in to clean my room. The chemical smells started choking me and they had to put me on a nebulizer while they aired the room.

    Now, at home, it is all natural for cleaning, laundry and bathing. You suggested using a few drops of a high-quality organic essential oils if you need scent. I use eucalyptus since it is a proven treatment that dilates the blood vessels and allows more oxygen into the lungs and I also use Spearmint which can help treat asthma and congestion due to its decongestant properties. I find adding them to my products give the house as nice fragrance as well as helping me breathe.

    If you don’t want to make everything yourself, Bath and Body works has a “Stress Relief” line of products made with Eucalyptus and Spearmint oils that I really like. I use them sparingly but they do seem to help my breathing. I like to carry the Sanitizing Hand Gel in my purse and use it as breath “pick me up”.

    If you are interested in learning more, you can try these links:

    Good information about the use of eucalyptus oil around the house.

    spearmint and its uses at

  • Mary Ultes author
    3 years ago

    Hi Linda, The more people that know about the effects of scented product has on COPD & breathing in general the better. Your link on uses for eucalyptus oil & spearmint are very use full to anyone that want start using natural products & thank you for the links, I did delete your link to Bath & Body As I feel they are not good for anyone with COPD. Even with organic essential oils what works for one is not good for all. I must caution anyone who want to try them to go slow & use very little till they know how it will affect them. Thank for the info. Breathe deep & easy, Mary

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Diana and thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with ‘scented’ triggers. It’s always interesting and enlightening to hear all those ‘triggers’ that are affecting our breathing. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • Diana
    3 years ago

    This site is so knowledgeable. I burn scented wax tarts. Scented wall plug-ins. No wonder my breathing is not improving. My doctor asked me if I noticed my breathing improving since I quit smoking,and I haven’t and I haven’t smoked since September 15. Thank you

  • Mary Ultes author
    3 years ago

    Hi Diana, Once you get rid of all the scents you have in your house you should notice a big improvement in you breathing. The fact that you stopping smoking is all the better. Sometimes when you stop smoking it can take up to a year before you get the full benefits. When I stop smoking after 51yrs, it took that long for my breathing to really improved enough for me to do more. One of the best thing that happen is I am no longer diagnosed with chronic bronchitis.I wave not had a bronchitis attack in 7yrs & have only
    had one bad exacerbation in all that time. Getting rid of the cigarettes & scented product was the best thing I did to slow the progression of my COPD & prolong the length & quality of my life. If you haven’t read my article oh a COPD friendly home please read them & implicated as many as possible into your life. When I was 56 I was given 6mons to live, I will be 70 in 3 week & I credit that first to God & then to the fact I made the changes I write about in my live. By making a few changes you can slow the progressing of you COPD to a snailed pace. Good luck, Breathe deep & easy. Mary

  • Poll