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Smoking-induced Cough Treatment Overview

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Care Plan


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.
See home treatments

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.
See care providers

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

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All treatments for smoking-induced cough
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Read more about smoking-induced cough care options

When to see a healthcare provider

See a healthcare provider if you need help to quit smoking, which is the best way to treat smoking-induced coughing.

Smoker’s cough can be concerning because coughing that gets worse or doesn’t go away can also be a sign of lung cancer, infection, or asthma. It’s important to see a healthcare provider to get an accurate diagnosis.

See a provider immediately if you have severe symptoms like coughing up blood or fainting after coughing, or you’re unable to control your bladder because of the coughing.

Getting diagnosed

Smoking-induced coughing can usually be diagnosed based on your symptoms and history of smoking. But if your provider is not sure of the cause, they may want to do some tests. These include:

  • Imaging tests like a chest X-ray, CT scan, MRI, or PET scan. These can look for an infection, lung mass, and cancer cells.
  • Pulmonary function tests can evaluate for asthma and lung disease.
  • Your provider may want to check if your cough is from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) by doing a test for esophageal reflux.
  • If lung cancer is a concern, your doctor may want to analyze a sample of your lung secretions. There are many ways to get a sample, including by analyzing mucus you’ve coughed up (sputum cytology), taking fluid that has collected around the lungs (thoracentesis), doing a needle biopsy or a bronchoscopy.

What to expect from your doctor visit

  • You may be prescribed an inhaler, like a bronchodilator or corticosteroid, to help your cough. Bronchodilators relax the muscles of your airways. Corticosteroids relieve inflammation in your airways.
  • If you are ready to quit smoking, your doctor can prescribe nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to reduce the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Prescription NRT is available as a nasal spray (Nicotrol NS) and an inhaler (Nicotrol).
  • There are also oral medications that help reduce withdrawal symptoms. These include varenicline (Chantix), which works similarly to nicotine by triggering the release of the feel-good hormone dopamine.
  • Bupropion hydrochloride (Zyban) helps make nicotine less effective so you’re less interested in smoking.

Prescription medications for smoking-induced cough

  • Bronchodilators: albuterol (Proair, Proventil, Ventolin), ipratropium (Atrovent); combination albuterol /ipratropium (Combivent)
  • Corticosteroids: budesonide (Pulmicort), beclomethasone (Qvar), fluticasone (Flovent), mometasone (Asmanex)
  • Nicotine nasal spray: Nicotrol NS
  • Nicotine inhaler: Nicotrol
  • Varenicline (Chantix)
  • Bupropion hydrochloride (Zyban)

Types of providers for smoker’s cough

  • A primary care provider can treat smoking-induced coughing.
  • You may need to see a pulmonologist, a doctor who specializes in lung conditions, if you need more advanced care.
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