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Household Hazards for People With COPD

Many homes harbor dust, fumes, germs, and other irritants that aggravate COPD symptoms.
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The bottom line? “If someone in the house has COPD, bare wood floors are best,” says Schachter. To further minimize the threat posed by dust, leave shoes at the door and arrange to have someone who doesn’t have COPD dust, sweep, vacuum, etc.

3. Cleaning Products That Give Off Fumes

Oven cleaners, spray polish, and other household cleansers -- especially those that contain bleach or ammonia -- can be very irritating. “Anything that gives off fumes can cause problems -- bathroom cleaning products, in particular,” Thomashow says.

“Many people with COPD have a red, raw airway,” Schachter says. “If you breathe in the fumes from these products, you’re just fanning the flames.”

He recommends replacing fume-producing products with less-irritating “green” cleansers -- or relying on old-fashioned cleaning agents like soap and water, baking soda, and vinegar.

The room being cleaned should be well ventilated, and someone who doesn’t have COPD should wield the mop and scrub brush (and the person with COPD should steer clear until the job is done). After use, cleaning products should be tightly capped and put away.

If someone with COPD must use cleaning products, the COPD Foundation recommends wearing a respirator mask rated “N95” by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

4. Dry Cleaning Chemicals

Some people with COPD are sensitive to the odor of newly dry-cleaned garments. To avoid trouble, take the clothes out of the plastic and let them air out before putting them in your closet.

Alternatively, put them in a room with an open window -- and close the door. You might also look for a “green” dry cleaner that doesn’t use harsh chemicals.

5. Fireplaces and Wood Stoves

A roaring wood fire gives off light and warmth -- and all manner of irritating gases and sooty particulate matter.

“I generally recommend against using fireplaces,” Thomashow says, with a laugh. “Fake ones are OK.”

Schachter says, “Having a fire is like smoking a cigarette. I’m not saying do away completely with fires and candlelight dinners but to do everything in reason.”

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