Outdoor Fumes and Irritants
Outside of your home, there are other chemical fumes that can irritate COPD. These include:
- Vehicle exhaust
- Factory pollution
- Spills at gas stations
- Sewer fumes
If you have to be outside around heavy amounts of any of the above, you should limit any outdoor activities that require you to breathe more air than usual (like exercise). This is especially true when smog levels are high, as there is data to suggest that high levels of ozone in the air may cause COPD flare-ups.
Fortunately, in most cases, you can get ozone readings simply by checking your local weather channel. As a rule of thumb, ozone levels tend to be at their highest between May and September and are higher in the afternoon than they are in the morning.
Staying inside during high smog levels, avoiding obvious pollutants, and, in some cases, wearing a painter’s mask outside can all help reduce the risk of your COPD flaring up.
In 2017, a study consisting of 106 people with COPD recording their symptoms, the humidity level, and the temperature each day for over a year, found that the combination of low temperature and high humidity was likely to trigger COPD symptoms.
In response, researchers recommended people with COPD to keep their indoor temperatures at 18.2°C (64.8°F) or above to ensure a humidity level of 70-percent or less. Ideally, indoor air humidity should be at 40-percent. This can be more easily achieved with the help of a dehumidifier.
Along the same line, people with COPD should also limit time outdoors during extremely hot (above 90°F (32°C), cold (below freezing), windy, or humid weather. During cold weather, if you have to go outdoors, covering up your mouth and nose as best as possible is recommended. On very hot and humid days, frequent breaks inside, preferably with air conditioning, is the best way to avoid COPD flare-ups.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for people with more serious cases of COPD to move to other parts of the country (or world) where weather conditions are more COPD-friendly.