COPD Triggers and How to Avoid Them

An estimated 16 million Americans are living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a group of lung diseases that make it difficult to breathe. If you have COPD, you can learn to manage your symptoms by discovering and limiting your exposure to common triggers.

Here at I&R Medical Services, board-certified physicians Dr. Roza Israel and Dr. Igor Israel offer comprehensive wellness services to help patients live well with chronic diseases through individualized treatment. We help patients with COPD understand and manage COPD symptoms so they live longer, fuller lives.

What is COPD?

COPD typically develops gradually and gets worse over time. The term COPD encompasses a range of long-term obstructive lung diseases characterized by breathlessness, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Affecting close to 9 million people, chronic bronchitis is the most common type of chronic obstructive lung disease. With this condition, the lining of the bronchial tubes become irritated and inflamed, resulting in symptoms that include:

Emphysema is the second most common type of obstructive lung disease. Most people — about 90% — with emphysema are over the age of 45. With emphysema, the air sacs in the lungs are damaged. Shortness of breath is the primary symptom.

How COPD affects daily life

Patients with COPD often report becoming so short of breath that they have trouble doing everyday things like climbing stairs. They commonly report limiting their physical activity and giving up activities they used to enjoy due to COPD symptoms. As COPD progresses, it can significantly interfere with daily activities.

COPD symptoms can differ from person to person. Each type may affect your daily life differently and affect how well different treatments work. If you have another health condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes in addition to COPD, it can also affect how we manage your COPD.

Three most common COPD triggers 

Identifying and avoiding triggers plays a role in managing COPD. Flare-ups are periods when symptoms pop up or become worse. It is essential to partner with a specialist to treat these episodes and work to prevent future flare-ups. Keeping a journal when you have flare-ups can help you identify triggers so that you can take steps to avoid future flares.

Inhaled irritants

Cigarette smoke is a major COPD trigger. Inhaling tobacco smoke when you smoke or when someone else smokes, irritates the lungs and can trigger or worsen symptoms of COPD. We encourage patients with COPD to quit smoking and to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke. If you’ve tried to quit without success, we can discuss medications and programs that can help.

Severe weather

Extreme weather is a common COPD trigger. Very cold, hot, or humid weather and changes in temperature trigger symptoms in some people. Limiting your exposure to extreme weather can help you feel better and reduce flares. 

During severe weather, you may want to stay indoors, where you can control the temperature and humidity. If you must go out during very cold weather, cover your mouth and nose with a scarf.

Existing illness or infection

Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible to avoid illness or infection. Whenever you are sick or have an infection, it can trigger or worsen symptoms of COPD. 

Incidentally, people with COPD are prone to respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, colds, and the flu. Having an increased risk for getting sick means you need to take extra care to protect yourself. Wash your hands frequently, practice good overall hygiene, and avoid people who are sick to lower your chances of developing an infection.

Other triggers

A 2015 study found that other common triggers are:

If you notice that any of these things trigger your symptoms or make them worse, go through your home and remove products that contain scents and perfumes. It’s also helpful to switch to natural, unscented cleaning products.

There’s no cure for COPD, but promptly and effectively treating flare-ups and avoiding triggers can help you manage symptoms and lead a normal life. To learn more about COPD treatment at I&R Medical Services, call our Forest Hills, New York, office at 929-223-6981 to schedule an appointment or book here on our website.

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