Chronic Lung Disease: Avoiding Irritants and Allergens
Many people with chronic lung disease such as pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) need to stay away from irritants that can trigger symptoms. (COPD includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.) These symptoms make it harder to breathe. Irritants are certain substances in the air that irritate the airways. Some people are also sensitive to certain allergens. These are substances that cause swelling (inflammation) in the lungs. Allergens can also cause a runny nose or itchy, watery eyes. You likely can’t stay away from all these things, all the time. But you’ll most likely breathe better if you stay away from the things that bother you.
Try to stay away from…
Smoke. This includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and fireplaces.
Talk with your healthcare provider about smoking cessation programs.
Secondhand smoke. Don’t let others smoke near you or in your home.
Ask for smoke-free hotel rooms and rental cars.
Make sure fireplaces and wood stoves are well ventilated. And sit well away from them.
Smog. This is made up of car exhaust and other air pollutants.
Strong odors. These include scented room fresheners, mothballs, and insect sprays. Perfume and cooking can also cause strong odors.
Don't use bleach or ammonia for cleaning.
Use scent-free deodorant, lotion, and other products.
Other irritants. These include dust, aerosol sprays, and fine powders.
Cold weather. This can make it harder to breathe.
You may also need to stay away from…
If you have allergies, try to stay away from the allergens that cause them. If you are allergic to many things, think about being tested for specific allergens. Ask your healthcare provider if you need to stay away from any of these:
Pollen. This is a fine powder made by trees, grasses, and weeds.
Try to learn what types of pollen affect you the most. Pollen levels change during the year.
Don't do outdoor activities when pollen levels are high. Use air conditioning. Don't open the windows in your home and car.
Animal dander. This is shed by animals with fur or feathers. The particles can float through the air. They stick to carpet, clothing, and furniture.
Dust mites. These are tiny bugs too small to see. They live in mattresses, bedding, carpets, curtains, and indoor dust.
Mold. This grows in damp places such as bathrooms, basements, and closets.
Call 911 if you have a severe reaction such as:
Ask your healthcare provider or an allergy specialist to test you for specific antigens. This can help prevent severe reactions.
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