Smoking and asthma

How does smoking affect asthma?


Smoking has a detrimental effect on your lungs but this is particularly true if you have asthma. 82% of smokers with asthma reported that smoking makes their asthma much worse. This is because tobacco smoke is an irritant for the lungs. It is a known trigger in causing asthma symptoms and exposure to secondhand smoke as a child also makes you more likely to develop asthma.


Can you smoke if you have asthma?

It’s not recommended to smoke if you suffer from asthma. As soon as you breathe in tobacco smoke this causes your airways to narrow. This is particularly dangerous for someone with asthma as your airways are already inflamed and sensitive. Exposing yourself to anything known to irritate the lungs should be avoided to prevent triggering your asthma symptoms.

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Smoking also damages the small hairs called cilia which line the inside of your lungs and work to clear your lungs of irritants and dust. Without them, your lungs cannot function as well as usual and will be unable to clean out the excess mucus which is produced as a result of smoking. Overall, smoking increases your risk of having asthma attacks and symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, breathlessness and chest tightness.


Does smoking cause asthma?

The exact cause of asthma is unknown but smoking is one of the major factors which can trigger it. This means that if you smoke, you may be more at risk of developing asthma, particularly if asthma runs in your family or if you suffer from allergies.

Exposure to tobacco smoke as a young child is a risk factor for developing asthma, however. The same is true if your mother smoked during pregnancy. Second-hand smoke can be just as harmful to both children and adults who are at risk of developing asthma.


Are e-cigarettes safe to use if I have asthma?

While e-cigarettes aren’t as harmful as smoking, it’s still not advised to inhale any substances which can irritate your lungs. There is little research available to conclude what effect using these vapourising devices can have on your asthma as they are still relatively new.


Should I quit smoking if I have asthma?

In short, yes. If you are a smoker and have been diagnosed with asthma, the best thing you can do is to quit smoking. In the first couple of days, you may find it harder than usual to breathe. This is because your lungs are beginning to clear out the excess mucus and the cilia are starting to grow back to allow your lungs to clean themselves and work as they should.

After quitting you should see a noticeable improvement. You’ll have fewer asthma attacks, your symptoms will improve and you’ll be less sensitive to other triggers. You may find that you need to use your inhaler less often and overall the health of your lungs will improve, allowing you to breathe easier.

If you’re finding it difficult to quit, talk to Dr Felix for help in easing you through this transition. Remember, you’ll be doing your overall health a favour and improving your quality of life by managing your asthma.

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