COPD Triggers and How to Avoid Them

If you’re one of the 16 million Americans living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you know the harsh symptoms that come with it. Your chest is tight, it’s hard to breathe, and the constant coughing is annoying and painful. You also know there’s no cure for what ails you. You can, however, manage your symptoms.

Our team at Patrick County Family Practice in Stuart, Virginia, specializes in helping you cope with your COPD and minimize your symptoms so you can continue to do the things you love. With the latest treatments, we can help you reduce the severity of your symptoms. 

In addition to medical treatments, we recommend that you identify the things that trigger your COPD symptoms so you can avoid them when possible. Not everyone reacts to the same triggers, so you don’t have to cut out everything on the following list. But once you discover what causes your COPD flare-ups, you can reduce the number and severity of your episodes and get some relief from the worst of your symptoms.

Upper respiratory infections

About 50% of all COPD flare-ups occur because of viral or bacterial infections, such as the common cold, flu, and pneumonia. The best thing to do is avoid people you know to be sick, wash your hands often to keep germs at bay, and get a flu shot every year.


Smoking tobacco is the number one reason for the onset of COPD. Once you have it, it’s one of the chief causes of flare-ups that lead to coughing attacks and wheezing. If you smoke — stop. If you don’t smoke, stay away from those who do, as second-hand smoke can be just as harmful. 


Anything that irritates your lungs can set off your COPD symptoms. One of the most common culprits is air pollution. Car exhaust, smog, and gas fumes while you’re filling up your tank are all possible triggers.

And remember that pollution can contaminate indoor air as well. Your fireplace, a kerosene lamp, your heating vents, and even your stove and oven can emit fumes that irritate the lining in your lungs. Open the windows to ventilate the space, or simply get outside for some fresh air. And don’t forget to change the filter in your heating system regularly. 

Dirt and dust

COPD sufferers fare best in a clean environment. That means that inside your house and office should be dusted and vacuumed more often than most. When you’re outdoors, stay away from construction sites and other places where dust and dirt are obvious factors.

Dogs and cats

People with allergies react to many of the same triggers as those with COPD, and that includes pets. More specifically, it’s the dander from pets that causes the problem. Dander is accumulation of countless tiny specks of skin that fall from your pet when they scratch. Dander can become airborne and trigger your COPD. That’s why it’s important to vacuum and dust as often as possible.


When spring blooms and the pollen count is high, your COPD may be in trouble. Many sufferers point to pollen as one of the worst offenders when it comes to triggering coughing attacks. Check the news to find out the pollen count and plan your day accordingly. On high-pollen days, it’s best to stay inside to avoid setting off your COPD symptoms.

When your COPD becomes too tough to manage and you need some help, come see us at Patrick County Family Practice. Call us or request an appointment online so we can help you manage your COPD. 

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