A person wearing a grey t-shirt with an outline of lungs holding their chest and stomach.
COPD is not contagious but there are some things people around you can do to make your symptoms worse.

Is COPD Contagious?

COPD also called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a long-term or chronic disease that affects the lungs. In this article we are going to answer the question: Is COPD contagious? First, you need to understand this chronic disorder.

This condition happens when small air sacs in the lungs become damaged, resulting in a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Fatigue
  • Low oxygen levels
  • Increased retention of carbon dioxide

If you or a loved one has COPD, you may wonder if you can also develop COPD or “catch” the disease. Continue reading below to find out more about whether COPD is contagious.

Can You Transmit COPD?

Certain respiratory diseases are infectious, which means they are contagious. But is COPD contagious?

COPD is not contagious. It does not develop from infections with a pathogen, such as a virus or bacteria. You cannot pass it from person-to-person through any type of contact.

Instead, in most cases, COPD develops over time due to exposure to a lung irritant. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, cigarette smoking is the main cause of COPD in the U.S.

COPD may also develop due to smoking cigars, pipes, and other forms of tobacco. Breathing in chemicals, such as air pollution, workplace chemicals, and secondhand smoke can also lead to COPD.

Can You Worsen Someone’s COPD Symptoms?

The actions you take can indirectly affect someone with COPD. You can potentially make someone with COPD worse in the following cases:


Breathing in secondhand smoke can make COPD worse. If you smoke around someone with COPD, it can lead to increased symptoms. It may also cause the disease to progress faster. If you have a loved one with COPD, now may be a good time to quit smoking.

Spreading Infection

People with COPD are more prone to lung infections, and that includes contagious disease, such as the flu or the common cold. When someone with COPD gets respiratory infections, they may develop severe symptoms. In some cases, a respiratory infection leads to worsening COPD and faster progression. Do your best to avoid being around someone with COPD if you are sick.

You May Also Like

How to Slow Disease Progression

COPD is not currently curable, but the condition is manageable. The disease is also considered progressive and often gets worse over time. But progression is not inevitable. In some cases, COPD remains stable, and symptoms do not progress. But the lifestyle choices a person with COPD makes play a big role in how their condition evolves.

There are things someone with COPD can do to reduce the risk of their disease getting worse quickly, including the following:

Decrease Your Risk of Infection

If you have COPD and get sick with a respiratory infection, you are at an increased risk of developing complications, such as pneumonia. Take precautions to reduce your risk of infection, such as frequent handwashing, avoiding crowds during flu season, and staying away from people who are sick.

Avoid Lung Irritants

Fumes and chemicals that may irritate your lungs include scented candles, cleaning products, and certain cosmetics. Additional irritants include smoke and air pollution. Do what you can to control indoor air pollution. Avoid using scented air fresheners and candles. Use fragrance-free cosmetics. Use natural cleaning products, such as vinegar and water.

Get Your Flu Shot Every Year

The seasonal flu can lead to exacerbations of COPD symptoms and cause faster progression of the disease. Although a flu shot does not protect 100% against contracting the flu, it does reduce your risk.

Quit Smoking

Since smoking makes COPD worse, quitting may help decrease flare-ups and may slow down the progression of the disease. Quitting smoking also reduces your risk of other diseases, such as heart disease. Quitting is beneficial for your overall health.

Managing Symptoms

In addition to lifestyle changes, there are several ways to manage COPD to decrease symptoms and improve your overall quality of life. Consider the suggestions below.

Use Medications

Medications are one of the main ways to manage COPD. Different classifications of inhalers and breathing treatments are often used to reduce and prevent COPD symptoms.
Fast-acting inhalers are used to treat sudden symptoms, such as chest tightness and wheezing. The inhalers relax the airway muscles, which opens them up. As the airways dilate, air can move in and out of the lungs easier, which eases symptoms.

Usually, fast-acting inhalers work within a few minutes. Typically, they last from three to six hours. The two primary classes of fast-acting inhalers target different lung receptors and include beta 2 agonists and anticholinergic agents.

Common fast-acting COPD inhalers include:

  • Albuterol (Ventolin, Proventil, ProAir HFA)
  • Ipratropium Bromide (Atrovent)
  • Levalbuterol (Xopenex HFA)

Consider Oxygen Therapy

In some cases, when oxygen levels are low, using supplemental oxygen may help improve functioning. Using oxygen can help reduce shortness of breath and improve exercise tolerance. If you think your levels may be low, talk with your doctor.

In Review

Keep in mind, although COPD is not contagious, the actions we take can still have an impact on people with COPD. But by taking certain precautions, we can reduce the risk of making someone with COPD worse.