Smoker’s Cough: Everything You Need to Know

Smokers often feel smug if they do not have a smokers cough. They don’t realise that it’s simply the body attempting to purge the mucus and gunk caused by inhaling tobacco smoke.

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In this article we’ll address the question, what is smokers cough?

Fast facts on smoker’s cough:

  • Not all smokers develop a smoker’s cough.
  • Smoking is a primary cause of smoker’s cough.
  • It can result in various other conditions, including bronchitis.
  • The most effective way to treat smoker’s cough is to stop smoking.
  • A smokers cough can get worse for a while when they quit

What causes smoker’s cough?

Having a cough due to smoking can be worrying and embarrassing. A smoker’s cough is primarily caused by the irritation of the respiratory tract due to the chemicals and irritants present in tobacco smoke.

These irritants can lead to inflammation and excessive mucus production in the airways, resulting in the characteristic cough seen in smokers.

Over time, this can result in the buildup of mucus and other debris in the lungs, contributing to respiratory problems and infections.

What causes smoker’s cough?

There are several symptoms of smoker’s cough and typically include:

  • Persistent cough: A chronic cough that may be dry or produce phlegm (sputum).
  • Coughing fits: Episodes of coughing that can be intense, especially in the morning.
  • Throat irritation: Soreness or irritation in the throat.
  • Breathing issues: Shortness of breath or wheezing, particularly during physical activity.
  • Chest discomfort: Pain or tightness in the chest, especially after coughing.
  • Asthma: Many smokers who develop asthma find their symptoms dramatically decrease when they quit smoking.

How long does smoker’s cough last?

The duration of smoker’s cough can vary widely depending on individual factors such as smoking history, overall health, and whether smoking cessation measures are taken.

If a smoker persists in smoking, in spite of having smokers cough the cough becomes permanent.

Generally, smoker’s cough can persist for several weeks to months after quitting smoking as the lungs begin to heal and clear out accumulated mucus and irritants.

In some cases, it may take several months for the cough to completely resolve. It’s important for the body to get rid of the accumulated gunk and as such should be viewed as a positive, enjoyable process.

How serious is a smoker’s cough?

    • Severity of symptoms: Some individuals may have a mild, occasional cough, while others may experience persistent coughing fits accompanied by significant discomfort.
    • Underlying conditions: Smoker’s cough can be a symptom of underlying respiratory conditions such as chronic bronchitis or even early stages of lung disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
    • Impact on health: Continual irritation and inflammation of the airways due to smoking can lead to long-term damage to lung tissues and increased susceptibility to respiratory infections.
    • Risk of complications: Prolonged smoking and persistent smoker’s cough can increase the risk of developing more serious health issues, including lung cancer and heart disease.

While smoker’s cough itself may not always be life-threatening, it often indicates ongoing damage to the respiratory system and should be taken very seriously. Quitting smoking and seeking medical advice are essential steps to reduce the severity of symptoms, prevent further harm, and improve overall health.

Smoker’s cough vs. other types of cough

Smoker’s cough differs from other types of cough primarily due to its cause and characteristics. Smoker’s cough is caused by the irritation and inflammation of the respiratory tract due to exposure to tobacco smoke and its harmful chemicals.

In contrast, other types of cough may result from infections (such as colds or pneumonia), allergies, asthma, or environmental factors.

In terms of differing characteristics, smoker’s cough tends to be persistent and chronic, often occurring in bouts throughout the day.

It may be accompanied by the production of phlegm (sputum) and can worsen in the morning or with physical activity.

Other types of coughs may vary in duration and frequency depending on the underlying cause, and they may present with different symptoms such as fever, nasal congestion, or wheezing.

Understanding the specific cause of a cough is essential for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Smoker’s cough, especially when chronic, should prompt the smoker to consider quitting smoking and evaluation by a healthcare professional to assess potential lung damage and associated risks. Along with a cough, some people also experience what they describe as smokers flu.

How do you get rid of a smoker’s cough?

So, how to get rid of smokers cough? That’s easy – quit smoking.

Some people find it hard to quit – even when they are suffering from chronic smokers cough. The fear of what is happening to their body is counter-balanced by the fear of what will happen if they try to quit.

They think it will be a constant battle, a life of missing out on something they enjoy.

It’s essential that a smoker wanting to quit uses a method that can change the way they think about smoking and about quitting smoking.

It isn’t necessary to experience unpleasant nicotine withdrawal symptoms as long as you go about quitting with a method that makes it easy.

Treatments and home remedies

There are many treatments and home remedies for treating a smokers cough – but they all attempt to treat the symptoms rather than the cause. In doing so they can make the situation worse than it already is. The only way to effectively treat a smokers cough is to quit smoking.

When to see your doctor

You should see a doctor about smoker’s cough in the following situations:

  • Persistent cough: If your cough persists for more than 2-3 weeks after quitting smoking or if it worsens over time.
  • Blood in sputum: If you cough up blood or notice blood-streaked sputum.
  • Shortness of breath: If you experience significant difficulty breathing or wheezing along with the cough.
  • Chest pain: If you have chest pain or discomfort, especially when coughing or breathing deeply.
  • Other symptoms: If you have fever, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, or any other concerning symptoms in addition to the cough.
  • Risk factors: If you have a history of smoking and are at increased risk for developing smoking-related illnesses such as chronic bronchitis, COPD, or lung cancer.

Seeing a doctor promptly can help determine the cause of the cough, rule out any serious underlying conditions, and provide appropriate treatment or further evaluation as needed.

Early intervention can also help prevent complications and improve long-term respiratory health.

It is never too late to quit smoking. Whether you have smokers cough or not – think about doing it now.