Neon signs showing common COPD triggers including a cigarette, a sick emoji, a dog and cat, and a thermometer.

COPD Triggers

Last updated: June 2023

COPD is a chronic inflammatory disease that makes it difficult to breathe due to airflow limitations in the lungs. It is often easier to get air in (inhalation) than out (exhalation). Similarly to asthma, COPD is often exasperated by triggers. A trigger is something that causes COPD symptoms. Triggers will be different for everyone. Something that may set off my lungs might not bother you and vice versa. I’m going to take some time to go through some of the more common COPD triggers in this post.

Common COPD triggers

Cigarette and tobacco smoke

Smoking is the most common cause of COPD. The smoke from cigarettes is also one of the most common triggers for breathing difficulties.


The weather can be an absolute nightmare for many people with COPD. Drastic temperature swings and extreme temperatures can be bothersome for anyone, regardless if they have COPD. Some people may be more sensitive to humidity while others may have more trouble with very dry air. When the weather is very cold, wear a scarf or mask over your face to help add moisture to the air you are breathing.

Cleaning products

Harsh chemical cleaning products are especially bad for those with lung disease. Switch to non-toxic, natural cleaners if you can. If someone is using chemical cleaners, avoid being indoors if possible while they are being used.


Whether dust is indoors or outside, it can be an issue. Vacuuming and dusting often will keep pesky dust at bay. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with household chores if it becomes too much for you to stay on top of them yourself.

Air pollution

Depending on where you live, there may be significant air pollution. Air pollution can come from a variety of different sources, such as exhaust from vehicles/trains, and factories. Smoke from fires can also make the air very thick and difficult to breathe. When pollution is bad, stay inside or wear a mask if you must go outdoors.


We all know that a simple cold is never just a simple cold for someone with COPD. It always seems to go straight to the chest and cause significant breathing difficulties. Avoiding those who are sick, practicing good hand washing, and getting the flu shot will help keep you feeling well especially during flu season.

Environmental allergies

Allergy season is no fun for anyone. Allergens can trigger COPD symptoms quite easily and quickly. Keep an eye on the allergy forecasts in your area of the world. There are many different resources online and smartphone apps that track it for you.

Avoidance is the best defense

The best defense against triggers is avoidance. This is oftentimes easier said than done! We can try our very best to not put ourselves in a situation that could cause breathing difficulties but it isn’t always possible. In that case, being prepared is key. Be sure to have your rescue inhaler with you at all times and have a plan of what to do if it isn’t effective.

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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.

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