COPD and the Workplace

Having COPD is a struggle in itself. Managing our disease when it comes to symptoms, triggers, medications, flare ups etc is not always easy. We constantly need to be on our toes so to speak and be aware of how we are feeling and what we are exposed to. While generally, it can be easy to control what we encounter in our homes, the workplace is a whole other struggle. Here are some tips for navigating the workplace with COPD:


First and foremost, it is so important to speak with your employer and be as open with them as you can be when it comes to your COPD. Tell your coworkers what your warning signs are that your COPD is starting to flare up so they can also be on the lookout and know when to help. You may want to also get a note from your doctor that states you have COPD and if any accommodations might be needed. Also, check into what policies and procedures your Human Resources department has for when it comes to disabilities or accommodations that you might be in need of while you are at work.

Know your limits

Your health is of the utmost vital importance. Know when to take breaks and ask for help when you need it. Some jobs are more physically demanding than others and knowing when to stop and rest and catch your breath is so important. Giving yourself the time needed to rest and return your breathing back to baseline must happen to keep COPD from spiraling out of control.

Be prepared

Be sure to have your rescue inhaler and/or nebulizer with you at work and have it be easily accessible. It’s a good idea to show your coworkers how to set up your nebulizer to help you if you are in a situation where you need it immediately and are unable to set it up yourself. If you wear oxygen, check your tank or concentrator status frequently so that you don’t run out while you’re working.

Trigger management

For me personally, my lungs are set off by strong smells such as perfume and smoke. I am thankful that my workplace has a strict no scent policy which our patients (and myself!) appreciate so much! Not all workplaces have no scent policies and that can be a real issue for a lot of people with sensitive lungs. If you work outside, you might be exposed to smoke from fires or other environmental factors that can be a huge issue. I carry a mask with me pretty much at all times whether I am at work or not because you just never know what you could possibly encounter.

Another trigger that a lot of people with sensitive lungs come into potential contact with is strong cleaning products. Things like bleach and harsh abrasives can be an instant flare inducer. If these things bother your lungs, speak with management about the possibility of changing to a less harsh product and/or altering the cleaning schedule to when you aren’t there. Try to avoid sick people, especially during flu season. While this might seem easier said than done, there are things you can do like frequent hand washing, wearing a mask, and trying to stay far away from those who are sick. Getting your flu shot will also lessen the chances of you getting sick.

These are just a few things to take into consideration when working with COPD. I’d love to hear other tips that you may have to help keep your COPD from flaring while at work!

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