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General Medical Questions
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Question : I recently stopped smoking - a month ago to be exact - and now I find that I'm coughing a lot. Is this normal?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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June 07, 2013
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Coughing more after quitting smoking is not unusual. In addition to coughing, people who quit may temporarily develop a sore throat, sneeze frequently or notice sores inside the mouth. Knowing that these symptoms are normal helps people get through what is often a tough time.

The cough actually means that your airways are already beginning to heal. Everyone is aware that many smokers cough much more than non-smokers. But what is interesting is that younger smokers who haven't developed chronic bronchitis actually cough less while they smoke. That’s not good. Coughing helps keep particles out of our lungs. When you were smoking, the tobacco smoke inhibited the cough reflex and damaged the little hairs called cilia. Cilia should be constantly moving in an upward direction. This helps clear out mucous and small particles from the lower airways.

Now that you no longer smoke, your cough reflex is getting back to normal. And your cilia are starting to function like they should.

The cough should go away soon, by six weeks from your quit date. If it continues, contact your doctor to be sure that something else is not causing the cough.

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