Smoking and Asthma

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Smoking and Asthma

You may have family photo albums full of pictures with people smoking at all kinds of events, from kids' birthday parties to picnics. That's because smoking used to be OK everywhere — even in doctors' offices. All that changed as we learned more about the health problems it causes.

If you have asthma, smoking is especially risky because of the damage it does to the lungs.

Smoke irritates the airways, causing them to become swollen, narrow, and filled with sticky mucus — the same things that happen during an asthma flare-up. That's why smoking can cause asthma flare-ups to happen more often. Those flare-ups may be more severe and harder to control, even with medicine.

If You Smoke

You may have started smoking because friends do or because you grew up in a house where lots of people smoked. Some people try smoking because they are curious or bored. No matter why you started, if you're thinking about quitting, it would probably help your asthma.

Here are some other reasons to quit:

  • Smoking can undo the effect of any long-term control medicine you're taking. It also can force you to use your quick-relief medicine more often.
  • Smoking can disturb your sleep by making you cough more at night.
  • Smoking can affect how well you do in sports or other physical activities.
  • Worst of all, smoking can send you to the ER with a severe asthma flare-up.

If you decide to quit smoking, you don't have to go it alone. Get support from other people, like friends, family or other smokers who are also trying to quit. Ask your doctor about medicines or things you can do to crave cigarettes less. Your doctor wants to help you quit!

If Other People Smoke

Even if you don't smoke, you may still run into smoky situations in restaurants, parties, or even at home if one of your family members smokes. Secondhand smoke is a known asthma trigger. You'll want to avoid it as much as possible if you have asthma.

If you hang out with smokers or have a family member who smokes in the house, you are likely to have more frequent and severe asthma symptoms. You may have to take more medicine and your asthma may be harder to control. Finally, you may find yourself at the doctor's office or hospital more often because of asthma symptoms.

There's not much you can do about other people's behavior. But let your friends and family know that what they are doing is making your asthma worse. Ask them not to smoke in your house or car. It's your air, after all.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: January 2014

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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