What Should COPD Patients Avoid?

Medically Reviewed on 4/19/2022
What should COPD patients avoid?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is often triggered by certain lifestyle and environmental factors.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a name for a group of chronic lung diseases that cause breathing difficulties due to obstructed flow of air through the lungs.

Usually, the airways and air sacs in the lungs are elastic or stretchy. During respiration, the air sacs fill up with air like a small balloon. While breathing out, the air sacs deflate, and the air goes out.

In COPD, less air flows in and out of the airways because of one or more of the following problems:

  • The airways and alveoli become less elastic
  • The walls between the air sacs become destroyed
  • The airways become thick and inflamed
  • The airways become clogged due to more mucus production

5 things that COPD patients should avoid

The major reason for COPD is cigarette smoking, which contributes to about 80 to 90 percent of all COPD cases.

Five things that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) should avoid include:

  1. Cigarette smoke
    • Inhaling tobacco smoke can worsen the existing symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The toxic chemicals in smoke can irritate the airways, increase the risk of lung infection, and speed up the disease’s progression.
    • A person with COPD should give up smoking and seek a doctor's advice about programs and medications that can help with quitting smoking. They should also avoid secondhand smoke.
  2. Cold, hot, or humid weather
    • Extreme climatic conditions, such as low temperature and high humidity, are likely to trigger COPD symptoms in some patients.
    • Patients with COPD must prevent the indoor temperature from dropping below 64.8°F and make sure that the humidity level stays below 70 percent. Using a dehumidifier can help reduce indoor humidity. Patients must limit their outdoor time in very hot, cold, or humid weather.
    • While staying outdoors in cold weather, it is recommended to cover the mouth and nose with a scarf or cold-air mask.
  3. Air pollution
    • Car fumes, chimney smoke, and dust are the popularly known air pollutants that can irritate the lungs and airways. These may lead to sudden flare-ups of COPD symptoms and increase the risk of complications.
    • To reduce excessive exposure to air pollutants, check air quality forecasts daily. Limit outdoor time when the air quality is poor and avoid rush-hour traffic if possible.
    • High ozone levels can be a contributing factor to symptoms of COPD. Generally, ozone levels are seen to rise in the afternoons and during the summer. So, plan outdoor activities in the morning when ozone levels are likely to be lower.
  4. Respiratory infections
    • There is an increased risk of respiratory infections, including colds, flu, and pneumonia in patients with COPD. It is recommended that people with COPD get vaccinated against pneumococcal diseases and receive the annual flu shot.
    • Practicing good overall hygiene, washing hands frequently, and keeping away from people with respiratory infections can reduce the risk of becoming infected.
  5. Dust and fumes
    • Avoid inhaling products that can irritate the lungs or worsen COPD symptoms. While cleaning or using chemicals, keep the surrounding area well ventilated, take regular breaks, and consider wearing a protective mask.


COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the same as adult-onset asthma. See Answer

What causes COPD?

Long-term exposure to things that irritate the airways is the most common cause of the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This causes the airways to become inflamed, damaged, and narrowed.

The major reason for COPD is cigarette smoking, which contributes to about 80 to 90 percent of all COPD cases. However, this condition can affect people who had never smoked.

Other causes of COPD include long-term exposure to harmful fumes or dust, a rare genetic problem called Alpha-1 deficiency, which makes the lungs more vulnerable to damage.

9 symptoms of COPD

The person with COPD might have no symptoms or only mild symptoms at first. These symptoms usually progress over time and become more severe.

Nine symptoms of COPD may include:

  1. Frequent cough that produces a lot of mucus
  2. Wheezing
  3. Whistling sound while breathing
  4. Shortness of breath
  5. Chest tightness
  6. A cough that does not go away
  7. Frequent colds or flu
  8. Blue fingernails
  9. Low energy

In severe cases, COPD can cause weight loss without trying, weakness in the muscles, and swelling in the ankles, feet, or legs.

Medically Reviewed on 4/19/2022
Image Source: iStock image

American Lung Association. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/copd

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). https://www.cdc.gov/copd/index.html