Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD, is a pulmonary disease characterized by persistent difficulty in breathing and often accompanied by coughs, mucus production, and wheezing. It is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that is caused by consistent exposure to irritants in the air.
If left untreated, COPD can also result in acquiring other diseases, like heart disease and lung cancer. If you’re diagnosed with COPD, it is important for you to identify your triggers and develop a strategy for how to avoid these triggers in your daily life, along with following all therapies prescribed by your physician.
The compassionate providers at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine are skilled in treating COPD patients, and we understand the real ways in which this disease affects your lived experience. Fortunately, there are mechanisms in place to support you in breathing easier, and trigger avoidance is one of these!
Our caring team based in Algonquin, Illinois, is here to give you these simple tips on COPD trigger avoidance.
COPD triggers are widely varied
Triggers which can activate your COPD symptoms are widely varied. They include triggers on a personal level, which can be controlled more easily, as well as environmental triggers, which are a bit more difficult to predict. There are four triggers that are most often cited for worsening the symptoms of COPD.
1. Physical Health
Your physical health is important for managing COPD, because illness can exacerbate the present symptoms. Maintain a healthy diet, rich in vitamins and minerals, and sleep at least eight hours every night, if you can manage it into your schedule.
Especially during the cold fall and winter seasons when illness runs rampant, take extra precautions to avoid catching a cold or the flu. Make certain that you are up to date on all your vaccinations, especially your annual flu shot. Increase vitamin C in your diet through orange juice or vitamin supplements.
If you do start to feel a cold come on, then take the appropriate time away from work or school to recover fully before diving back into your daily schedule. By maintaining your physical health and avoiding the common cold or flu, you can reduce the severity of the COPD symptoms affecting your life.
2. Mental Health
In line with physical health, keep in mind that mental health is just as important for managing COPD. Studies have shown that stress can actually lead to an increased likelihood of flare-ups. Your body’s natural response to stress includes increased heart-rate, oxygen intake, and blood flow. But for those with COPD, the lungs aren’t always able to take in the large amount of oxygen, which then leads to increased symptoms.
While living with a chronic disease, aim to maintain balance in your life. Find a stress reduction activity that soothes you, such as yoga, meditation, exercise, or creative activities. Consider meeting with a therapist or life coach to discuss responses to stressful events in your life. In sum, make mental health a priority as much as physical health.
This trigger is more difficult to control -- the weather. Extreme weather can cause COPD flare-ups, from bitter cold to unbearable heat. If you live in a part of the world that experiences intense seasons, then take precautions throughout the year to counter the effect of weather. In the cold months, bundle up and and limit extended time outdoors. In the summer, minimize time in the direct sunlight and stay hydrated. Enjoy nature, but stay prepared and cognizant of triggers in the air.
On a larger note, pollution is a large trigger for COPD flare-ups and should be avoided, if at all possible. Make efforts to live in a lower-pollution area, and if you must live in an urban or polluted area, then consider wearing a mask when commuting and/or having an inhaler in-hand.
In addition, indoor pollution from dust, mold, and fumes can also serve as a trigger for COPD. Aim to work and live in up-to-date, newer buildings if possible, and make your preferences known to your supervisor and loved ones.
COPD is a highly manageable condition when treated with care. By knowing the triggers in your own life and environment, you can maneuver through the world with increased knowledge on how to reduce flare-ups.
For more information and to schedule an appointment to treat your COPD as soon as possible, call or book an appointment online with Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine today.