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Smoking-Induced Cough

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Last updated June 11, 2022

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Care Plan

1

First steps to consider

  • Smoking-induced cough (smoker’s cough) is best treated by quitting smoking.
  • At-home strategies can help you quit smoking, calm your cough, and ease discomfort.
2

When you may need a provider

  • You want or need professional help to quit smoking.
  • You have a persistent cough that has not been diagnosed.

Emergency Care

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Call 911 or go to the ER if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Racing heart
  • Vomiting
  • Cyanosis (blue discoloration anywhere on your skin, lips, or nails)
  • Chest pain
  • Constant fever of 102˚F or above
  • Confusion
  • Coughing up blood

What is smoking-induced cough?

Smoking cigarettes can cause you to cough, either immediately or from long-term exposure. The airways are lined with tiny cells called cilia, which catch toxins as you inhale air, and push them up towards the mouth.

When smoke is inhaled, the cilia are paralyzed for a short period of time, so toxins are allowed to enter the lungs and create inflammation. During the night, the cilia repair themselves and begin to push up all the accumulated mucus and toxins, causing an increase in cough in the morning. Smoking can also lead to emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD.

Treatment

If you smoke, vape, or inhale tobacco or other products, the best way to improve your cough is to quit smoking.

Quitting smoking can be very difficult, and it’s important to reach out to your doctor and other resources for support.

  • Talk to your doctor. They can counsel you on strategies and discuss medications that reduce cravings and make it easier to quit. Your doctor may also recommend a therapist or other support programs.
  • Call the national quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW. They offer advice about quitting, counseling, a list of support groups, and information about medications.
  • Sign up for support. There are a variety of ways to access counseling and support.

Ready to treat your smoking-induced cough?

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Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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