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