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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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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.”

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.

Next Article:

Managing COPD: Have you quit smoking?