If you have asthma, you are already familiar with symptoms like coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. If you also smoke, you probably realize that smoking makes these symptoms worse.
About 20 percent of people with asthma smoke. While quitting smoking can be difficult, it is one of the best things you can do to help manage your asthma. Understanding how quitting can improve your asthma and having the right tools can put you on the path to success.
How does smoking affect asthma?
Whether it is in the form of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, smoking damages the lungs and airways.
When smoke enters the lungs, the airways become irritated, narrow, and swollen. Smoking also causes the lungs to make more mucus than normal. All of these things lead to asthma symptoms and may trigger an asthma attack. Smoking also:
- Damages cilia, which are tiny hair-like substances in the airways. Their job is to sweep dust and mucus out of the airways. Smoke interferes with the cleaning process, making the cilia unable to work.
- Exposes you to many cancer-causing substances. These substances build up in the lungs and can cause diseases like lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Studies have found that compared to nonsmokers with asthma, those who had asthma and smoked had:
- More severe asthma symptoms
- More frequent and severe asthma attacks
- More frequent hospital admissions
- A faster decline in lung function
Not only does smoking make asthma symptoms worse, but it also reduces a person’s sensitivity to certain asthma drugs.
One study found that people with asthma who smoke are less sensitive to the beneficial effects of short- to medium-term treatment with inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) or oral corticosteroids. Compared to those who do not smoke, they had less improvement in symptoms, lung function, and rates of asthma attacks when taking these drugs.
The Benefits of Quitting
Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health. This is true no matter your age or how long you have been smoking.
The biggest benefit of quitting smoking is lowering your chance of getting many types of cancer, heart disease, and COPD. For people with asthma, studies show that quitting also:
- Improves lung function and asthma symptoms
- Reduces the risk of asthma attacks
- Reverses some lung damage
- Extends your life by as much as 10 years
If you have a hard time quitting smoking, cutting back on the number of cigarettes you smoke still benefits your health. Reducing your smoking as a step toward quitting may also help you. Some studies have found that people who reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked each day led to higher rates of quitting for good.
Tips To Quit Smoking
Using a combination of treatments and support can increase your chances of quitting. Talk to your doctor about what methods are right for you.
Prescription and over-the-counter drugs are an option many people use to quit smoking. Nicotine replacement products can help reduce physical cravings. Prescription drugs work in different ways to reduce your desire to smoke.
Other types of support and therapy can also make a big impact on helping you stop smoking, such as:
- Support from family and friends
- Advice from your healthcare team
- Guidance and support from apps, and online and telephone smoke-free programs
- Support groups with other people who are trying to quit smoking
Many people have to try several times in order to quit smoking for good. If one kind of treatment or strategy does not work, do not give up. Instead, try another kind or combination of strategies. Other things people find helpful when they quit include:
- Change your daily routine to avoid situations where or when you used to smoke
- Avoid situations where others are smoking
- Identify a reason to quit smoking beyond your asthma. You may want to be healthy enough to play with your grandchildren or enjoy hiking during your next vacation.
Your doctor can give you information about local resources and support networks that help people quit smoking