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Why smokers have smoker's cough?

Cigarette smoke contains chemicals that irritate the air passages and lungs. When a smoker inhales these substances, the body tries to protect itself by coughing. The well-known "early morning" cough of smokers happens for a different reason. Normally, cilia (tiny hairlike formations lining the airways) beat outward and sweep harmful material out of the lungs. Cigarette smoke, however, decreases the sweeping action, so some of the poisons in the smoke remain in the lungs. When a smoker sleeps, some cilia recover and begin working again. After waking up, the smoker coughs because the lungs are trying to clear away the poisons that built up the previous day. Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to smoke completely destroys the cilia's ability to function. Then the smoker's lungs are even more exposed and susceptible than before, especially to bacteria and viruses in the air.

I've tried several times before and proved I can't quit!

It takes most smokers several (4-7) attempts before they are successful. With each attempt you learn a little more about what works and what doesn't. The trick is to incorporate this new learning into your next attempt at quitting and make this time successful. It is sometimes helpful to go over your relapse with a health professional to determine what triggered the relapse, what you might have neglected, how you might better prepare for the next time: it's called "turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones".

Why bother - I've smoked so long it wouldn't help my health

Although some of the damage done by smoked tobacco is permanent, much is reversible. As early as the second day of abstinence, risk due to heart attack decreases. Within days, risk of stroke and infections begins to decrease. Over months after stopping the linings of the mouth, throat and bronchial tubes repair themselves, the cilia or little hairs in the bronchial tree start to work and the lungs begin to clear themselves. Emotional improvement begins to happen in weeks. Ten years after quitting, even heavy smokers of twenty years have cut their risks of dying from complications of smoking more than in half.

How long after quitting smoking will my lungs return to normal?

Congratulations on a job well done. You made the decision to quit, followed through, and then launched an exercise program. Along with increasing your lung capacity, you are reducing your risks for cancer, cardiovascular disease and many other diseases and conditions.

The recovery of lung capacity depends on how much and how long a person smoked before quitting. The good news is that the process starts immediately after quitting. You don't say how long ago you quit, but if you are able to walk briskly for an hour a day and work out with weights, I'd guess your lungs are well on their way back to near-peak operating capacity.

If you were a heavy smoker for 22 years, your lungs may never become what they were before you started smoking. They may get close, though, and your risk of lung cancer should drop to almost that of a non-smoker within 10 or 15 years.

Ten to 15 years may not be soon enough to suit you, but believe me, you'll feel substantially better soon, if you don't already. Some people have a rougher time than others with nicotine withdrawal. It may take weeks or possibly months before you really come to appreciate your accomplishment.

Why you cough more when you quit smoking?

Smoking deadens the cilia in the lungs. These are little hairlike cells that help brush out dust and other residues in normal, healthy lungs. One of the reasons smokers have more infections is that their cilia are not working, so foreign matter accumulates in their lungs. When you quit, the cilia get back to work within a couple of days. The result: you start coughing up more phlegm and sputum. Sometimes, ex-smokers get scared by this and think they have a new problem. But it's not that at all, just another example of your body getting back to normal.


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