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Community Feedback: What Scents Trigger Your COPD?

For individuals living with COPD, sometimes, it’s hard to know what will trigger a flare-up. While many people enjoy holiday candles, perfume samples, and air fresheners, for a person with COPD, scents can be challenging. We asked the COPD community to tell us what scents most trigger their COPD symptoms. Even though acute exacerbations affect every patient differently, our community members identified several common scents that can trigger and worsen their COPD:

Perfume

“Light powdery perfume is the worst!!!”

“Perfumed anything.”

“People’s nasty perfume”

“Anyone wearing a ridiculous amount of perfume or cologne”

By far, perfumes, colognes, and body sprays were the most frequently mentioned trigger scents. Although you may benefit from not wearing perfumes & scents, COPD patients are often confronted with other people’s body sprays and smells- even strong body odor can be triggering! It may be difficult to avoid every stranger wearing strong cologne, but it’s important to talk to your friends and family about your trigger scents. Managing your COPD includes communicating with your loved ones and caregivers, and if you don’t mention what smells trigger you, they may never know!

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Cigarette Smoke

“Let’s not forget cigarettes”

“Cigarette smoke throws me into a tail spin”

“Cigarettes…pipes…. cigars”

Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of COPD worldwide. While smoking can make your COPD symptoms worse, many of you report that just being around cigarette smoke and other tobacco products aggravates your symptoms. Even though many of our readers have successfully quit smoking (congratulations!), it can be frustrating to deal with secondhand smoke and the effects of other forms of air pollution. To avoid shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing, distance yourself from nearby smokers, ask family and friends to smoke outside & far away from you, and if your home is newly smoke-free, take steps to purify your furniture and carpeting!

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Smoke and Burning Fumes

“Fumes from a car or diesel fumes. Smoke from a camp fire or burning barrel.”

“These things that people burn in their yards. I live in a small town… I can’t breathe around them”

“Burning leaves, burning trash”

In addition to burning cigarettes, many of our readers report challenges around anything burning- leaves, food, cooking, gas/diesel fumes, candles, wood, and trash. Many COPD patients can manage their symptoms with breathing strategies and medication, but it’s also important to have an emergency plan ready, especially when burning food or trash could surprise you. If you find that you’re regularly exposed to a trigger- such as cooking or burning food- rely on your support system to avoid those triggers, and ask for help when you need it!

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Household Cleansers

“Just this morning, I was cleaning the restroom, and boy, I had a hard time”

“Paint, strong paint thinner”

“Most household cleaners in general”

“Spray cleaners, bleach… and worst of all, oven cleaner”

For those affected by COPD, it can be tempting to stay at home and avoid outside triggers. However, if not properly prepared, your house can also be an unforeseen source of COPD troubles. Making your home COPD-friendly is crucial to a healthy lifestyle, and many of our community members report being triggered by a variety of cleaning products, air fresheners, home-repair products, and laundry detergent. The strong scents and smells of household products can be triggering, but many of you have found the products that work for you! Through trial-and-error, our readers have found the household supplies that do not trigger them, and you can too!

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Everything!

“Any and all”

“Too many to name.”

“Everything! Lol”

“Anything too strong”

For many of our readers, anything scented can feel like a trigger. Whether you’re grocery shopping, at work, or driving, sometimes a random smell can catch you off-guard, and trigger your symptoms. Even though it’s important to avoid allergens and irritants, for many of our community members, trigger scents can be a difficult reality to face.

Coping with your COPD is a long journey, and we encourage you to reach out to fellow community members as you face the world’s unavoidable smells!

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