How to Remove COPD Triggers from Your Home
Learn more about recognizing COPD flare-ups and how to avoid them.1
Some conditions, such as high blood pressure, have few or no symptoms. But chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) makes itself known with wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. So a big part of managing the disease is keeping the symptoms in check. Fortunately, there are things you can do to fend off flare-ups so you can breathe easier.
Step one: Take your medications as told to by your doctor. Also important:
- Quit smoking if you smoke
- Eat a healthy diet
- Rest when you need to
There are also some simple steps you can take to rid your home of as many COPD triggers as possible. Here’s how.
1. Detoxify Your Cleaning Products2
Cleaning supplies often contain dangerous chemicals, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Breathing in the fumes can trigger COPD. In general, it’s a good idea to steer clear of these products:
- Aerosol spray products
- Air fresheners
- Chlorine bleach
- Furniture and floor polish
- Manufactured rug and upholstery cleaners
- Oven cleaners
- Products that contain VOCs – examples include benzene, formaldehyde, and toluene
Instead, look for nontoxic, fragrance-free products. Or make them yourself. It’s easier than you might think. For instance:
- Warm water and soap can become your all-purpose cleaner
- Baking soda sprinkled on a damp sponge is a gentle abrasive. It can be used for scrubbing
- A vinegar-and-water solution is a good swap for glass cleaners
2. Make Your Bedroom a Safe Haven3
Whether or not you have allergies, some common allergens can set off your COPD symptoms. Pet dander — tiny flecks of skin from animals — is one. Another is dust mites. These are tiny insects that feed on dead human skin cells (gross, but true). Dust mites can also be found in places that come into contact with your skin. At the top of the list: bedding, pillows, and mattresses.
To cut down on dust mites in your bedroom, wash your bedding once a week in hot water. Make sure the water temperature is higher than 130°F. That’s the temperature it takes to kill the mites. Also, put anti-allergen coverings on your mattress and pillows. And as much as possible, keep your pets off your bed and out of your bedroom.
3. Update Your Pantry and Freezer3,4
Food choices can help — or hurt — your COPD. For example, eating a diet with fewer carbohydrates and more healthy fats may be helpful. (Examples of healthy fats include salmon, avocados, nuts, and seeds.) Why? Your body makes more carbon dioxide when it breaks down carbohydrates than when it breaks down fats. Carbon dioxide is a waste product we have to exhale. More carbon dioxide makes extra work for your lungs.
Also, check food labels for sodium content. Too much salt can cause swelling and may contribute to pulmonary hypertension. This can cause shortness of breath, pressure in the chest, and fatigue. It’s common in people diagnosed with COPD. Swap high-sodium foods for those with low or no sodium content. Some of the saltiest foods include:
- Smoked, cured, salted, or canned meat
- Frozen breaded meats and frozen dinners such as pizza and burritos
- Canned foods such as ravioli, soups, and chili
- Salted nuts.
4. Watch the Air Quality5,6
Stay inside on days when the outdoor air quality is poor because of pollen or pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency provides air-quality news. Simply enter your zip code to get a local report.
Keep an eye on humidity levels. Most people with COPD do best when the outdoor humidity level is around 40%. You can find local humidity reports on Weather.com.
Know that outdoor humidity also makes indoor air more humid. Indoors, an ideal humidity level is usually between 30% and 50%. To keep humidity low in your home, use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom. And use air conditioners and dehumidifiers throughout your house, as needed.
5. Filter Your Indoor Air
Air conditioners with blocked-up filters can’t effectively cool a home. Be sure to change your filters as recommended. Some need to be changed every 30 days. Higher-quality pleated filters might only need to be changed every 3 to 6 months. It’s also a good idea to have your air-conditioning system, especially the ducts, checked for mold and mildew. These allergens are big COPD triggers, so you don’t want them being blown throughout your home.
Seek Support When You Need It7
A diagnosis of COPD may mean some lifestyle changes and emotional challenges. Don’t downplay the importance of social support from friends, family, or other people with COPD. Research shows that social support is connected to better COPD symptom management and fewer hospital stays.
Do you need more help with coping? Think about joining a support group. Two good ones: Better Breathers Club or Living with COPD on Inspire. You also have access to a free COPD management program as part of your health benefits. To learn more, reach out to your care advocate through Wellframe, your digital health management app.
 “What to know about COPD flare-ups.” Medical News Today, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/copd-flare-up. Accessed March 30, 2022.
 “Dust Mite Allergy.” Mayo Clinic, July 31, 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dust-mites/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352178. Accessed November 1, 2021.
 “Nutrition and COPD.” American Lung Association, https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/copd/living-with-copd/nutrition. Accessed March 30, 2022.
 “Foods That May Worsen COP Symptoms” VeryWell Health, https://www.verywellhealth.com/foods-that-may-worsen-copd-symptoms-914727. Accessed March 30, 2022.
 “Humidity and COPD.” COPD.net, July 13, 2018, https://copd.net/living/humidity. Accessed November 1, 2021.
 “COPD and Humidity.” Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health/copd/humidity. Accessed March 30, 2022.
 Lenferink A, van der Palen J, and Effing T. “The Role of Social Support in Improving Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Self-Management.” Expert Review of Respiratory Medicine, vol. 12, no. 8, 2018, pp: 623-626.