Patients and their medical care providers have known for some time that environmental factors can trigger a COPD flare-up, but this knowledge was based mostly on anecdotal evidence. A few years ago, a study collected and analyzed data on these triggers and their effects on COPD.

The COPD Trigger Study

In the study, 167 COPD patients were surveyed about their daily activities and any chemical exposures that might be irritating to the respiratory system. Questions included whether engagement in certain activities or exposure to certain products or chemicals affected their breathing and whether as a result they avoided these triggers, or took additional medications at the time of exposure.

Findings About COPD Triggers

More than half of the COPD patients in the study reported that the following activities or exposures affected their breathing:

  • sweeping
  • vacuuming
  • dusting
  • cigarette smoke
  • wood smoke
  • vehicle exhaust
  • cleaning products
  • perfumes
  • scented candles
  • insect spray
  • hair products

Differences Between COPD Patients With Asthma and Patients With Severe COPD

Interestingly, COPD patients with asthma responded more strongly to volatile organic compounds, while those with more severe COPD were more severely affected by particulate exposures.

Advice On Environmental Triggers and COPD

To the extent possible, avoid the triggers listed above, especially those that you know have worsened your COPD symptoms in the past. Be prepared with your COPD medications when you’re unavoidably exposed to COPD triggers.

Information for this article was obtained from BioMed Central – COPD Research and Practice.

Substances and Activities That Can Trigger COPD Flare-ups: A Survey
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