The lungs are different from most of the other organs in your body because their delicate tissues are directly connected to the outside environment. Anything you breathe in can affect your lungs. Since the lungs of people who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are already compromised, reducing your exposure to anything that could make your COPD worse, or cause an exacerbation or flare-up is important.

Avoid Possible Triggers

Smoke: Smoking causes lung cancer, COPD and many other illnesses. To protect your lungs:

Industrial Compounds: If you are exposed to dust and fumes at work, ask your health and safety advisor about how you are being protected and talk to your doctor about what can be done to minimize or eliminate the exposure.

Pollution: Help fight pollution. Work with others in your community to help clean up the air you and your family breathe. Get life-saving updates on your local air quality and learn how you can help fight for healthy air.

Protect Your Health

Taking steps to protect your overall health will also help protect your lungs from viruses and infections that could make you sick.

With COPD, a cold or other respiratory infection can become very serious. There are several things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Use hand sanitizer
  • Avoids crowds during the cold and flu season
  • Ask that extended family members and friends be considerate of your COPD and only visit when they are healthy, which helps you protect yourself from infection.
  • Good oral hygiene can stop the germs in your mouth leading to infections. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and see your dentist at least every six months.
  • Get vaccinated against flu and pneumonia, and encourage family and those around you to do the same.

Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.

Page last updated: November 17, 2022

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