Smoker’s cough is a persistent cough that results from damage to the airways caused by toxins in cigarette smoke. Over time, smoker’s cough can lead to hoarseness and chest pain. It can also be among the signs and symptoms of lung cancer.
While smoking cigarettes, cigars, and vaporizers you inhale many chemicals in your body. These chemicals get stuck in your throat and lungs. Coughing is your body’s natural way of clearing these airways. When the cough lasts for a long time after extended periods of smoking, it’s known as smoker’s cough.
Smoker’s cough tends to sound different than regular coughing. It involves wheezing and crackling noises associated with phlegm in your throat. Smoker’s cough also tends to be wet, or productive. That means it carries a lot of mucus and phlegm with it. Smoker’s cough can become chronic if you’re a daily smoker.
Cilia are the tiny hair-like structures along your airways. When you smoke, the cilia lose some of their ability to push chemicals and other foreign materials out of your lungs. Because of this, toxins remain in your lungs for much longer than they normally would. In response, your body has to cough more to remove the chemicals from your lungs.
Smoker’s cough can be especially irritating in the morning. This is because cilia regain their ability to remove the chemicals from your lungs when you haven’t smoked for a few hours. This can make your cough much more unpleasant when you wake up.
Complications of smoker’s cough vary depending on how often you smoke, how severe your cough is, and whether you have any underlying conditions. Complications can include damage to your throat, hoarse voice, itching and irritation in your airways, long-term, chronic cough, and increased infections.
Smoking over a long period of time can cause toxic chemicals to build up in your lungs and airways. This can cause you to develop other conditions, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema, and Lung cancer.
How to Treat Smoking-Related Cough/Smoker’s Cough
Some basic steps you can take:
- Soothe your throat with cough drops, or a saltwater gargle.
- Drink plenty of fluids, 6–8 glasses of water per day to keep the mucus in your lungs and throat thin.
- Elevate your head above the rest of your body while you sleep to make sure mucus doesn’t gather in your throat.
- Exercise 30 minutes per day on a regular basis. Exercise loosens up your mucus and makes it easier to cough up phlegm.
- Avoid alcohol and coffee to help lessen the severity of your cough. Coffee and alcohol can dehydrate you and cause irritation.