Have a symptom?
See what questions
a doctor would ask.

Smokers cough

Smokers cough: Introduction

Coughing is a protective reaction of the body to the toxins in cigarette smoke, which irritate the respiratory tract and lungs. A dry, irritated cough can occur when inhaling smoke but it stops shortly after the smoke has been coughed out of the lungs.

In contrast, a smoker's cough is due to long-term smoking, which causes damage and destruction of the protective cilia of the respiratory tract. Cilia are hair-like structures that sweep harmful substances out of the lungs. Cilia that are damaged or destroyed can no longer sweep harmful substances, such as dust, bacteria, and viruses out of the lung. This leads to a build-up of mucus mixed with these substances in the respiratory tract, which the body tires to clear by coughing.

Despite the effort of the smoke's cough to clear the respiratory tract, long-term smoking leads to an increased risk of developing pneumonia and acute bronchitis, due to the build-up of viruses and bacteria in the respiratory tract. A smoker's cough is generally a wet cough that is productive of phlegm, which can be clear, white, yellow-green or blood tinged.

A smoker's cough can also develop due to chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is a progressive, recurring inflammation of the lungs, most often due to the damage that long-term smoking causes to the lungs. Chronic bronchitis causes the production of an abnormally large amount of mucus, which can block airways, resulting in a smoker's cough. For more information about symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of smoker's cough.

Making a diagnosis of smoker's cough and/or acute bronchitis and/or chronic bronchitis begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms and smoking history. A physical examination is also performed and includes listening with a stethoscope to the sounds that lungs make during respiration. Lung sounds that may point to an underlying diagnosis of bronchitis include wheezing and crackling sounds that can go away temporarily after coughing. There may also be decreased lung sounds.

In some cases, diagnostic testing can include lung function tests, such as a spirometry, which measures how much air is moved in and out of the lungs. A chest X-ray and CT scan of the chest can evaluate such factors as the presence of other conditions that may occur with long-term smoking and bronchitis, such as pneumonia and congestive heart failure. If there is severe shortness of breath, an arterial blood gas may be done. In this test a sample of blood is taken from an artery and tested for many parameters of effective respiration, including the oxygen level in the blood.

It is possible that a diagnosis of smoker's cough and/or chronic bronchitis and/or acute bronchitis can be missed or delayed because some symptoms are similar to symptoms of other diseases and conditions. For more information conditions and diseases that can mimic smoker's cough and bronchitis, refer to misdiagnosis of smoker's cough.

The only cure for smoker's cough is quitting smoking or smoking cessation. For more information on treatment and smoking cessation, refer to treatment of smoker's cough. ...more »

Smokers cough: A smoker's cough refers to coughing that normally occurs in people who have a history of chronic smoking. The coughing occurs mainly in the morning as the airways try and clear toxins and mucus that has built up during the night. Smoking affects the cilia that line the trachea and airways so that they can't effectively remove mucus and phlegm so coughing is an alternative way of removing the buildup. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Smokers cough is available below.

Smokers cough: Symptoms

There are generally two types of cough that occur due to smoking. The first type occurs when the body coughs in reaction to inhaled toxins and lung irritants. This type of cough is generally dry and stops shortly after the smoke has been cleared out of the lungs.

Prolonged or long-term smoking results in an ongoing, chronic smoker's cough. A smoker's cough is generally a wet cough ...more symptoms »

Smokers cough: Treatments

A smoker's cough can be cured in many cases by quitting smoking or smoking cessation. The longer a person smokes, the harder it might be to quit and more likely that permanent damage may be done to the lungs resulting in such complications as lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and other forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, such as emphysema.

Smoking cessation ...more treatments »

Smokers cough: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of smokers cough and underlying chronic bronchitis or acute bronchitis may be delayed or missed because some symptoms, are similar to symptoms of other diseases. These include upper respiratory infection, influenza, lung cancer, and pneumonia.

A diagnosis of chronic bronchitis may be delayed or missed because the symptoms ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Smokers cough

Treatments for Smokers cough

  • Quit smoking
  • Stop smoking. Cessation of smoking can initially cause an increase in coughing as the cilia which clear the airways start to work properly again
  • more treatments...»

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Smokers cough:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Smokers cough?

Smokers cough: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Smokers cough:

  • Onset of cancers of the respiratory tract
  • Reduced resistance to bacterial and viral respiratory infections
  • more complications...»

Causes of Smokers cough

  • Cigarette smoking - In the trachea, the walls are lined with cilia, small hairs that protrude from the tracheal epithelium. They move in a synchronous wavelike motion, thereby moving foreign bodies trapped in phlegm upwards towards the oropharynx, so they may be swallowed. Cigarette smoke destroys or paralyzes these cilia, so the only way that phlegm can be removed is via coughing.
  • Smoking
  • more causes...»

More information about causes of Smokers cough:

Smokers cough: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Smokers cough

Sinusitis is overdiagnosed: There is a tendency to give a diagnosis of sinusitis, when the condition is really a harmless complication of another infection, such as a more »

Whooping cough often undiagnosed: Although most children in the Western world have been immunized against whooping cough (also called "pertussis"), more »

Chronic lung diseases hard to diagnose: Some of the chronic lung diseases are difficult to diagnose. Even the well-knowns conditions such as asthma or more »

Smokers cough: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Smokers cough

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Smokers cough:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Smokers cough, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Smokers cough: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Smokers cough: Animations

Smokers cough: Broader Related Topics

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Smokers cough, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:


By using this site you agree to our Terms of Use. Information provided on this site is for informational purposes only; it is not intended as a substitute for advice from your own medical team. The information on this site is not to be used for diagnosing or treating any health concerns you may have - please contact your physician or health care professional for all your medical needs. Please see our Terms of Use.

Home | Symptoms | Diseases | Diagnosis | Videos | Tools | Forum | About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Site Map | Advertise