You finally stop smoking and develop a cough - great! This is especially disappointing if you didn’t cough while smoking. Only a minority of people get a stop smoking cough which is directly related to quitting smoking. It is because the cilia in the lungs are repairing and clearing out the gunk left after you stop smoking.
Although smoking gives you the traditional smokers cough it also makes coughing more difficult because of the paralysing effect it has on the lungs. The stop smoking cough is actually a good sign that your lungs are working again. The cilia are able to start their job of cleaning your lungs again causing irritation leading to a cough.
The cough lasts a short time until the cilia are clear. If your cough causes breathlessness and tightness it could be a sign of something more serious. You must visit your doctor if your cough is persistent and painful. Ultimately the stop smoking cough is a sign of returning health.
Inhaling 4,000 toxic chemicals including 70 cancer-inducing substances has a negative effect on your lungs. You have two lungs on either side of your heart consisting of bronchioles and air sacks. Mucus and cilia line bronchial tubes keeping them clear and allowing clear breathing. The cilia transport pollutants out of the lungs by directing them towards the throat causing us to cough, spit or swallow. This is an effective way to keep the lungs free from infection and disease.
Smoking cigarettes form a sticky tar all over your lungs causing the cilia to cease up and stop working. They become less effective clogging up the lungs and increase your chances of developing respiratory problems. Basically, smoking stops your lungs from working properly making breathing more difficult and putting you at risk of cancer and other horrible diseases. (Source: NHS Smokefree)
Why Do You Cough?
Imagine trying to run through treacle and the limitations it puts on your mobility. Now imagine the treacle getting shallower - you can move your body but need to keep kicking the treacle off until you are clear. It is pretty much the same with cilia and tar from cigarettes. The fine hairs stick together when you smoke and become mobile when you stop.
The cilia in the lungs reactivate when you stop coating them with tar and are able to do their job again. You cough because they are doing a major clean up job on your lungs which is a good thing. A cough generally lasts a few weeks and benefits from drinking plenty of water, using a humidifier and soothing your throat. If your cough concerns you contact your doctor to seek advice.
It is difficult to stop smoking especially if you have been doing it for decades. Willpower alone isn’t always enough and the health and financial impact on our lives don’t discourage us. Most people stop smoking at least ten times before they quit for good. There is no better time to stop smoking than now because the government provides lots of support.
Stop smoking groups, apps, patches, nicotine replacements, gum and sprays also help you to stop smoking. Medication like Champix helps you to withdraw from nicotine gradually and prevents slip-ups. Ultimately you are the only person who can stop smoking for good and if it doesn’t work the first time wait a while and try again.
By Parv Sagoo (April 2018)