COPD is a progressive and incurable lung disease characterized by chronic obstructed airflow from the lungs that interferes with normal breathing. It includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or both. While COPD is treatable, it is not fully reversible and is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

The three primary symptoms of COPD are:

  • shortness of breath
  • chronic cough
  • sputum, a mixture of saliva and mucus, production

The most common early symptom of COPD is shortness of breath on exertion.

There are many risk factors associated with developing COPD, including exposure to dust and chemicals in the workforce, secondhand smoke, wood smoke, frequent lung infections as a child and biomass fuels used for cooking. Genetics also plays a small role.

The most common risk factor for COPD is cigarette smoking. By avoiding smoking, an individual decreases the accelerated decline of lung function and their chance of developing COPD.

Triggers are things that can irritate your lungs and make your COPD symptoms worse. Avoid these common triggers:

  • Air pollution
  • All tobacco products, including vaping and second-hand smoke
  • Strong fumes, perfume, scented products
  • Weather (hot humid air or cold air)
  • Illness
  • Stress

How to avoid COPD triggers indoors

Avoid breathing in the fumes from perfume, paints and cleaning products. Try to buy household products that are unscented. When cooking, turn on your kitchen fan, which should be vented outdoors. Avoid smoke from fireplaces or woodstoves. Avoid second-hand smoke anywhere--in homes, in cars, etc.

How to avoid COPD triggers outdoors

If cold air and strong winds bother you, try covering your nose and mouth with a scarf (wrapped loosely) and breathe through your nose. The scarf will help warm the air before it gets to your lungs. On hot humid days, or days of smog, stay indoors in an air-conditioned room.


The best way to avoid the most common illness that plagues COPD sufferers is to get an annual flu vaccination.


If you or a loved one would like to stop smoking, call the West Virginia Tobacco Cessation Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), a free service to all West Virginia residents 18 and older.