- Smoking-induced cough>
- Treatment Overview
Smoking-induced Cough Treatment Overview
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.
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.
Call 911 or go to the ER if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Racing heart
- Cyanosis (blue discoloration anywhere on your skin, lips, or nails)
- Chest pain
- Constant fever of 102˚F or above
- Coughing up blood
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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.
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.
Treating smoking-induced cough at home
Mild to moderate smoking-induced coughing (smoker’s cough) can be managed at home. The best way to treat the cough is to quit smoking.
There are OTC smoking cessation aids that can help you quit. They are all types of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), which work by reducing the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. There are three forms of NRT: gum, patches, and lozenges.
- NRT gum: Nicorette
- NRT patches: Nicoderm CQ, Habitrol
- NRT lozenges: Nicorette
Tips for treating smoker’s cough
- Call the national quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW. They offer advice about quitting smoking, counseling, a list of support groups, and information about medications to help you quit.
- Create a personalized quit plan to improve your chances of success at smokefree.gov.
- If you aren’t ready to quit, reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke each day can help you cough less often.
Wellness and prevention
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can dry out and irritate your throat and worsen coughing.
- Drink plenty of water to thin mucus in your throat.
- Suck on lozenges and cough drops to soothe your throat.
- Exercise most days of the week. Being active helps loosen mucus. Exercise also helps reduce stress, which is a very common trigger of nicotine cravings. Talk to your healthcare provider about starting an exercise program.
- Elevate your head when sleeping to prevent mucus from pooling in your throat.