Know What Smoker's Cough Is and How to Help

Smoker's cough is very familiar among smokers. Heavy smoking for a long period can cause irreversible damage to health. Learn the best remedies to help.

"Smoker's Cough" is a term that is most likely to be known either by regular smokers or those who have had the experience of living with a smoker in the past. Early mornings are usually the time when it occurs. A study done on military recruits revealed that almost 40% of the recruits started having a chronic cough accompanied with sputum while only 12% of the non-smokers among them developed the same symptoms. Long-term smokers are more prone to this kind of cough, so the actual percentage might be higher than what the study suggested.

What Is Smoker's Cough?

Smoker's cough is characterized by a persistent cough that has been present in a long-term smoker for more than 3 weeks. The coughing experienced is worst in the mornings, but becomes tolerable as the day progresses. In the beginning, the cough might be dry especially in those smokers who have not been actively smoking. However, eventually it starts producing phlegm which is clear, white, yellow in color but can sometimes turn green as well.

What Causes Smoker's Cough?

The main cause of smoker's cough is damage sustained by the cilia. They are fibers located inside the bronchial tubes and the trachea and perform the job of excreting the phlegm from respiratory system. The damaged cilia are unable to excrete phlegm, leading to its accumulation in the body. Since cilia have the ability to heal themselves at night, the smoker usually does not have to cough so much to excrete the phlegm at night rather than in the mornings. However, with the passage of time, the cilia can be completely destroyed due to smoking, leading to serious lung and respiratory disorders.

What Are the Treatments of Smoker's Cough?

1. Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking is by far the most effective treatment. You cannot get completely free from the persistent early-morning cough if you do not give up your smoking habit. Since quitting smoking is not that easy, you can ask your doctor to give you medications that aid you in quitting or make use of nicotine gum and sprays to put an end to your smoking urges.

2. Take Aerobic Exercise Regularly

Aerobic exercises involve breathing rapidly which can make it easier for you to expel the mucus that has accumulated in your lungs. A 30-minute exercise session can help you in excreting phlegm easily. Continue this exercise or else coughing will comeback.

3. Keep Hydrated

Drinking water regularly can help ease the pain caused by smoker's cough, as it is a great thinning agent. So make sure that you consume up to 64 oz. of water on a daily basis.

4. Gargle with Salt Water

Gargling with warm water containing salt can help you in ejecting phlegm easily and will also reduce your cough.

5. Drink Warm Soothing Tea

  • Honey: Adding honey in a cup of tea can minimize the coughing and provide comfort to your throat. Scratchiness of the throat can be minimized by adding a tablespoon of aloe juice in your tea.
  • Sage and thyme: Sage and thyme can boost the immune system if they are taken infused in warm water. They can help reduce the pain you are having in your throat and serve as an anti-inflammatory agent.

6. Eat a Healthy Diet

Consuming a healthy diet that is rich in cruciferous vegetables and fruits can help you body in eliminating the harmful chemicals that you are exposing yourself to with smoking. Fruits like grapes and vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, olives, broccoli, radishes and onions can all help you in detoxifying your body. On the other hand, consuming alcohol and coffee can cause dehydration and increase your coughing.

7. Take Throat Lozenges

If you want to minimize the severity of the coughing and increase the production of saliva in the body, then taking throat lozenges is a good option.

Consult your physician before using any OTC coughing medications or prescription drugs for your persistent cough.

8. Elevate Your Head While Sleeping

Elevate your head while sleeping by propping a pillow underneath your head. In this way, the mucus will not accumulate in your throat and you won't experience coughing.

9. Moist the Air

  • Since dry air can worsen your coughing, it is better to install a humidifier in your room. 
  • Inhaling the vapors of eucalyptus leaves boiling in water can soothe your throat and reduce your coughing. You can do this by placing a towel over the pot of water then inhale the vapors coming from it. However, don’t burn yourself in doing this and stay at a safe distance from the hot steam.

When to See a Doctor

  • Blood in cough: Coughing up even a small quantity of blood warrants an appointment with the doctor.
  • Hoarseness: Hoarseness of voice that lasts for about a week and is not accompanied with other symptoms of cold can be a sign of a serious medical condition.
  • Wheezing: Wheezing that is accompanied with coughing is a sign of asthma and other serious disease, thus it is better to have it checked out immediately.
  • Shortness of breath: Having shortness of breath is a clear sign that something is wrong with your lungs and you should see a doctor in time.
  • Unexplained weight loss: Unusual or unexpected weight loss can also be a symptom of an underlying disease.
  • Pain: Having pain in the shoulder or back region when coughing is a sign that you must see a doctor immediately.

What Are the Complications of Smoker's Cough?

Heavy smoking for a long period can cause irreversible damage to the cilia and prevent them from cleaning the invading toxins from the respiratory system. Because of this, the harmful chemicals contained in cigarette smoke can build up in the lungs and cause various life-threatening diseases and conditions like:

  • Bronchitis: Bronchitis is characterized by massive accumulation of mucus in the bronchi. This mucus layer is so thick that it becomes the breeding ground of bacteria and the smoker becomes prone to infections. In Bronchitis, the airways become so narrow that normal breathing becomes almost impossible for the patient.
  • Lung Cancer: Smokers get exposed to toxic materials and have a high chance of developing viral infections as well. Both of these can cause lung cancer which is the most serious and life-threatening condition that a smoker can contract.
  • Emphysema: Emphysema is characterized by puncturing of the alveoli in the lungs. They are air sacs where the transfer of carbon dioxide and oxygen takes place. If a number of these alveoli get damaged, the smoker develops Emphysema and experiences shortness of breath and starts having difficulty in exhaling.
  • Pneumonia: Infections in the bronchial wall due to the buildup of mucus can lead to other serious conditions like pneumonia if the infection is not dealt with at an earlier stage. Pneumonia is also among the serious medical problems that patient of smoker’s cough can develop with the passage of time.
  • COPD: COPD or Chronic Obtrusive Pulmonary Disease is a leading cause of death in America. Women smokers are more vulnerable to this disease. It is characterized by having a drowning sensation since the patient has to frequently gasp for air. 

Recommended:

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If you or your child brings up the point, “My chest hurts when coughing,” it may not be dangerous. However, severe chest pain or trouble breathing can be serious.


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