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COPD Health Center

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Household Hazards for People With COPD

Many homes harbor dust, fumes, germs, and other irritants that aggravate COPD symptoms.


One fire that should never be allowed to burn inside the home of someone with COPD: the one at the tip of a cigarette. “There can be no compromise with smoking,” Schachter says. “That is death.” Even passive smoking (exposure to someone else’s tobacco smoke) can be risky for people with COPD.

6. Moisture That Breeds Bacteria and Mold

From shower stalls to basements to that sponge left lying by the kitchen sink, sources of moisture in the home can promote the growth of bacteria and mold.

What can you do to stymie these irritants? Seal all leaks. Wipe up spills right away, and throw out water-damaged carpeting. Use fans to increase ventilation in bathrooms and kitchens. Replace kitchen and bath sponges frequently.

Pick up a humidity meter and take steps to keep indoor humidity below 40% -- for example, by running a dehumidifier or air conditioner.

7. Pet Dander and Dirt

Cats and dogs fill a home with love -- but also with irritating dirt and dander (bits of dry skin and hair).

Not eager to bid au revoir to Rover? Have him washed and groomed twice a month. And keep him out of your bedroom.

8. Showerheads That Harbor Mycobacteria

Recent research has shown that showerheads can harbor so-called “atypical mycobacteria.”

These germs are generally harmless to healthy people, but capable of causing a chronic, low-grade infection that brings coughing and shortness of breath in people with COPD.

Mycobacteria are also resistant to antibiotics, making them hard to eradicate.

To avoid trouble, Schachter recommends having showerheads cleaned (or replaced) twice a year.

9. Toiletries: Scented Soaps, Shampoos, Sprays

Some people with COPD are sensitive to scented soaps, shampoos, deodorants, hairsprays, and cosmetics. If that describes someone in your house, stick with unscented personal products -- and steer clear of perfume and cologne.

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Reviewed on February 01, 2012

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