One of the best methods of controlling COPD is to learn what triggers your flare-ups and how to avoid or control them. Here are some of the more common COPD triggers.
Cigarette Smoke. Avoid it at all costs. Do not smoke and quit if you do Do not allow others to smoke in your home. Do not visit people who smoke. Cigarette smoke is THAT bad.
Other Smoke. Smoke from wood stoves, fireplaces, and campfires are all equally bad for COPD. It’s best to heat your home by other means, and avoid places that are heated with smoke. It’s probably best that you avoid camping.
Fumes. Fumes from paint, weedkillers, household cleaners, gasoline, and other sources may induce flare-ups. Some cannot walk down the laundry detergent aisle.
Pollution. Anyplace that has a lot of car exhaust should be avoided, such as garages, gas stations, and urban cities. You may be able to find pollution reports for cities around you, and avoid them when pollution levels are high. Keep the windows shut, turn air conditioners on in your vehicles and home.
Dust and pollen. Dust, such as dust stirred up by a car on a gravel road, or pollen from both trees and plants, may irritate airways and trigger flare-ups. A good way to avoid these is to stay inside cars and homes with the windows closed and air conditioner on.
Cold Air. Cold air cannot hold humidity, and therefore tends to be very dry. Inhaling it may irritate air passages, causing flare-ups. Avoid it by staying inside. If you need to go outdoors, place a scarf over your mouth so you are rebreathing your own moist humid air. Make outdoor time brief, such as only to get from your house to your car.
High Humidity. Humidity greater than 50 percent makes air thick and hard to breathe. Control it by keeping windows closed and air conditioner on.
Overeating. Large meals enlarge your stomach, pushing it into your diaphragm, making it so you have less room to expand your lungs, making it hard to breathe. Some foods cause gas that makes you feel full and bloated. Most experts recommend 5-6 small, healthy meals instead of three large ones. Avoid fried foods, spicy foods, and foods that make you gassy (like beans).
Sick people. Any respiratory virus or bacteria may trigger a flare-up, and for this reason you should make sure people don’t visit with you when they are sick. Some respiratory infections may cause pneumonia. Since COPD patients are already at an increased risk for catching pneumonia, sick people should be avoided.
Overexertion. Moving too fast may increase the work your heart has to do to meet the oxygen demands of your body. This may make you abnormally winded, requiring you to rest. Sometimes it may take a while for you to catch your breath. Learn to pace yourself when moving from place to place. If you must walk long distances, rest from time to time. It’s great, even essential, for you to exercise with COPD, but learn to pace yourself.
It’s never going to be easy. However, by learning what triggers your disease, and how to avoid or control them, you will set yourself on a path to a better life with this disease.
A Registered Respiratory Therapist and asthmatic