Why Smokers Often Cough? Find Out The Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

September 17, 2021 | Written By: Nurul Afiqah

Why Smokers Often Cough? Find Out The Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

If you are close to smokers, you may notice that they cough frequently. A cough is actually a physiological way for your body to clear out the chemicals that enter your airways and lungs. Therefore, smokers who actually inhale a lot of smoke and harmful chemicals will cough more often because their lungs are trying to remove these chemicals.

Symptoms of Smoker’s Cough

In the early stages, the most common symptom experienced by those who suffer from a smoker’s cough is dry cough and it can eventually produce phlegm. The phlegm can be:

  • Colourless

  • Bloody

  • White

  • Yellowish green

Other symptoms that may arise with a smoker's cough are as follows:

  • Wheezing

  • Chest pain



Usually, the symptoms of a smoker's cough tend to be worse in the morning. However, most smokers may cough throughout the day. Prolonged cough can indicate other serious problems such as obstruction or infection in the respiratory tract, lung infection, and lung cancer. Therefore, serious cough symptoms that are accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, coughing up blood, and shortness of breath should be immediately referred to a doctor for further examination. Take this quiz to find out if you are dependent on nicotine!

What Causes Smoker's Cough?

The cilia are fine finger-like structures like small hairs along your airways. Do you know what happens to these cilia when you smoke? Cigarette smoke contains harmful substances that will weaken the movement of these cilia and affect the ability of these structures to push those substances and mucus out of your airways. Therefore, foreign substances such as chemicals from cigarette smoke and mucus will accumulate in your lungs. So coughing is a way to remove them.

Some people may experience a worse cough after they quit smoking compared to when they are still smoking. Don't worry, it is a good sign. After you quit smoking, the cilia in your airways will become active again. So, it is working hard in order to remove the chemicals and mucus that have accumulated in your lungs. This is also the reason why smokers cough happened more often in the morning, as their cilia become active again after not being exposed to cigarette smoke for several hours during sleep.

In addition, smokers will also have problems with post nasal drip. It describes the feeling of mucus secretion from your sinus dripping down to the back of your throat. This mucus is secreted due to irritation from cigarette smoke. Postnasal drip also often causes cough in smokers.

What Are The Tips To Relieve Cough From Smoking?

The most effective way to overcome a smoker's cough is to reduce the amount of smoking or to quit smoking.

However, quitting smoking is not an easy task. In your quest to quit smoking, here are some steps you can take to relieve the cough from smoking. Remember, these tips only give you temporary relief. Make sure you have the determination and try to quit smoking.

  • Gargling with salt water

  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water daily to reduce mucus secretion in your throat and lungs

  • Slightly raise your head position while sleeping like using a pillow to prevent mucus from accumulating in your throat

  • Perform exercises at least 30 minutes a day on a regular basis. Physical activity can benefit your lung health.

  • Avoid drinking coffee or alcohol. Coffee and alcohol can dry out your throat and make your cough worse.

What Is The Treatment For Smoker’s Cough?

What to do if you have tried various ways to alleviate cough but unsuccessful? You should refer to your health problem or a doctor for further treatment. Treatments such as bronchodilators and corticosteroids can help relax the airways if necessary.

There are some alternative or natural treatments that can be used to overcome the symptoms of a smoker's cough. Vapor essential oils are believed to relieve cough symptoms as well as relieve symptoms of inflammation that may occur. Herbal foods such as ginger and oregano can also help relieve cough, sore throat, and other symptoms.

However, this alternative treatment is only intended to help give you relief, please consult a doctor for the treatment of cough if prolonged. Essential oils are not edible and are for external use only. An application of essential oils to the skin may also cause inflammation or allergies. You are advised to use essential oils only as aromatherapy. Similarly, certain food recommendations such as ginger and oregano should be taken in moderate quantities.

Besides, you can also try some home remedies to treat the discomfort of your throat. Drinking hot tea without sugar or mixing it with a little honey and lemon can provide relief. You are recommended to take supplements such as vitamin C or drink beverages that are high in vitamin C such as orange juice. This is to strengthen your body's immune system so that you are not easily infected with germs that can worsen the symptoms of a smoker's cough.

Complications of Smoker’s Cough

There are many complications that can occur as a result of an untreated smoker's cough. Damage to the cilia is the cause of various possible complications. Complications depend on the frequency of smoking, the seriousness of the cough, and also the overall health history. Among the complications of a smoker's cough is an increased risk of respiratory infections by bacteria and viruses. Besides, hoarseness due to irritation in the larynx. Prolonged cough can cause various other complications such as hernias.

Damage to the cilia can cause the accumulation of chemicals in your lungs and respiratory tract. This can lead to some other diseases such as bronchitis, emphysema, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), pneumonia, and lung cancer.

In conclusion, smoking is indeed detrimental to health. Smoking cough symptoms not only affect health but also interfere with daily activities including sleep. In addition, passive smokers will also get the effect. Passive smokers can also get cough symptoms and often get respiratory infections especially babies and their complications are more dangerous and can be fatal.

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