Smoker’s cough is a common occurrence among long term smokers. It may start off gradually as a dry cough but over time it can develop into a hacking, wet cough that brings up clear, green or yellow phlegm. Smoker’s cough is generally worse in the early morning hours but can persist throughout the day. Some people experience coughing spasms at night, cutting into their sleep.
A close up photo of a person’s lungs will reveal that they contain tiny hair like structures known as cilia. Cilia’s job is to keep harmful substances such as toxins, bacteria and viruses away from the lungs. As people smoke, they inhale toxins into their lungs which cause damage to cilia, hindering these structures from performing their job. As a result, toxins, mucus and other contaminants begin to build up on the throat, air passages and lungs, causing swelling and irritation. Coughing is the body’s response to this irritation as it tries to get rid of mucus and other chemical buildup on the lungs.
Years of cigarette smoking can cause permanent damage to cilia, making them ineffective in keeping your lungs or respiratory system clean. As bacteria, toxins and other contaminants accumulate in a smoker’s throat and lungs, it leaves them more susceptible to contracting serious respiratory diseases like pneumonia, lung cancer or COPD. Even without serious repercussions, chronic coughing can cause discomfort and pain due to inflammation and soreness of throat and lungs.
In addition to being a health hazard, smoker’s cough can be extremely irritating to others, making it difficult for smokers to feel comfortable in social settings. Chronic coughing can be disruptive for people who are trying to watch a movie, take in a school play or enjoy a meal at their favorite restaurant. At work, smoker’s cough can be offensive to co-workers and clients, especially in an enclosed office environment. Co-workers will find it hard to concentrate in an important meeting or tune into a presentation with persistent coughing in the background.
The presence of smoker’s cough is one indication of toxins irritating the lungs. By ignoring smoker’s cough symptoms, people run the risk of developing more serious lung diseases. Long term smoking can result in permanent damage to the cilia and greater buildup of toxins on the lungs. Over time, this buildup can lead to such respiratory illnesses as bronchitis, emphysema, pneumonia, COPD and lung cancer.
Bronchitis occurs when massive amounts of mucus block a person’s air passages making it near impossible to breathe. This mucus buildup then becomes a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria, which can lead to bronchial infections and pneumonia. Emphysema occurs when smoke toxins damage the alveoli (air sacs) in a person’s lungs, resulting in shortness of breath.
COPD – chronic obtrusive pulmonary disease – affects over 20 million people in the U.S. alone. The disease occurs more often in women smokers than men and is known to be a leading cause of American deaths. COPD symptoms are often confused with other illnesses, making this condition hard to diagnose. By the time it is diagnosed, smokers may have already sustained severe lung damage as evidenced by their having to gasp for breath.
Heavy exposure to toxic chemicals from smoking can also lead to lung cancer, perhaps the most deadly respiratory disease of all. Although smoking is not the only cause of lung cancer, it can substantially increase the risk of getting this disease. According to Bruce Johnson, director of the Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, “The most important thing a person can do to avoid lung cancer is to never start smoking.”
The good news is that smokers can decrease their risk of lung disease by quitting their smoking habit. Quitting smoking gives the body time to heal itself from smoking’s damaging effects. According to Dr. Johnson, “People who stop and remain a non-smoker for at least 10 to 20 years can cut their risk of developing lung cancer by 50 to 75 percent.”
The severity of smoker’s cough depends a great deal on a smoker’s habits. The longer people smoke, the greater the risk of smoker’s cough transitioning into a more serious condition. By keeping track of their symptoms, smokers can determine if their condition is worsening. The following signs may indicate that a cough is more serious than you think:
- Coughing up blood
- Wheezing while coughing
- Hoarse voice
- Unexpected weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in shoulders, back or lungs
Smokers who begin to experience these symptoms along with their cough should consult their doctor to see if they have a more serious illness. By discussing your smoking habits and health risks with your physician, you can get a clearer picture of how smoking is affecting your health.
How to Get Rid of a Smoker’s Cough *
Smoker’s cough symptoms are the body’s way of trying to eliminate cigarette toxins and other contaminants from your respiratory system. Smokers should view this cough as an early warning system to let them know that their lungs are in danger. As smoking is the main cause of this condition, the only way to stop smoker’s cough completely is to quit smoking. Those who are unwilling or unable to quit can at least cut back on their cigarette habit to give their lungs a chance to heal.
Most people will find it very difficult to quit a long term addiction like smoking. Knowing the risks involved with smoking can be an incentive to at least make an effort to stop. Smoker’s cough can have negative repercussions on just about every aspect of a person’s life. Those who are just starting to develop a smoking habit should think twice about the negative consequences to their health before getting totally hooked on cigarettes.
Although quitting smoking is the only way to get rid of smoker’s cough permanently, there are various treatments people can try to minimize coughing spells and get temporary relief of smoker’s cough symptoms. By experimenting with these remedies and treatments, smokers can determine which works best for them.
Smoker’s Cough Treatment *
Stay hydrated: Water is often used as a remedy to alleviate the symptoms of various health ailments to include asthma, allergies, heat stroke, etc. In the case of smoker’s cough, water helps to dilute mucus that has built up in a smoker’s throat and lungs to reduce coughing spells. Smokers should drink between 6-8 glasses of water daily to get the best results. If you suffer from sore throat due to constant coughing, you can try gargling with warm water mixed with salt to reduce sore throat pain and discomfort.
Use honey: Honey can also have a soothing effect on a sore throat due to a persistent cough. You can try adding a touch of honey to tea or other warm drinks or eat plain honey off of a spoon. The honey will coat your throat to make it feel better. Honey is nutritious, tastes good and has healing properties that can benefit the body.
Eucalyptus vapor: Inhaling eucalyptus vapor is yet another smoker’s cough remedy people can try to help them breathe easier. You can steam eucalyptus leaves over hot water in your bedroom or use a eucalyptus liquid in a humidifier to produce eucalyptus vapor. Inhaling eucalyptus or mint leaf vapor helps to open air passages in the lungs to facilitate breathing.
Throat Lozenges: Sucking on cough drops or throat lozenges can relieve the pain and discomfort of sore throats caused by smoker’s cough. Vitamin C also produces the same effect and gives your immune system an extra boost at the same time. Vitamin C can be purchased in any grocery store or pharmacy at reasonable prices.
Sleep with head elevated: People who have a hard time sleeping due to coughing at night can try elevating their head with pillows. Propping the head reduces the amount of mucus that drains into your throat which helps to minimize coughing spasms.
Eat healthy foods and exercise: Smokers should make an effort to adopt a healthy lifestyle, despite their smoking habit. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help reduce smoker’s cough symptoms as well as contribute to your overall health and fitness. Healthy food and exercise will help keep off excess pounds, increase energy levels, enhance focus and concentration and strengthen your immune system to help combat disease.
Eliminating Smoker’s Cough *
Quitting smoking is the key to eliminating smoker’s cough altogether. Smokers can often see the difference within 2-3 months of kicking their smoking habit. In some cases, smokers may experience “smoking cessation” cough which is an increase in coughing right after quitting. This shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. As damaged cilia begin to repair themselves, coughing may increase due to these structures working harder to repel foreign substances out of a person’s throat and lungs.
Smoking cessation cough may last as long as several months, giving the impression that quitting smoking had no effect. In reality, however, kicking your smoking habit is the best thing you can do to eliminate your persistent cough. Smoker’s cough may get worse initially but will eventually subside and stop completely over the long run. This would be a good time to increase your exercise regimen as strenuous activity can help clear up symptoms of coughing even faster. Exercise can also help control the erratic emotions and cravings people often experience after giving up their nicotine addiction.