Smoking shortness of breath

When will I feel better if I stop smoking?

Your health will improve in just a few hours:

  • After 20 minutes

    Your pulse returns to normal

  • After 8 hours

    Nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in your blood fall by half. Your oxygen levels begin to return to normal.

  • After 24 hours

    Carbon monoxide is eliminated from your body. Your lungs start to clear out debris.

  • After 48 hours

    There is no nicotine in your body. Your sense of smell and taste improve.

  • After 72 hours

    Breathing becomes easier. Your energy levels rise.

  • between 2 and 12 weeks

    Your blood circulation around your body improves.

  • from 3 to 9 months

    Your lung function increases by up to 10% making breathing easier.

  • After 1 year

    Your risk of having a heart attack is half of someone who still smokes.

  • After 10 years

    Your risk of lung cancer falls to half of that of a smoker.

  • After 15 years

    Your risk of a heart attack is the same as someone who’s never smoked.

Information from

“When you smoke, and you’ve been diagnosed with a lung condition, it scares you – so you smoke more. That’s your crutch. But you owe it to yourself to stop.”

Jane began smoking when she was 12. She finally beat her addiction to nicotine 16 years ago.

I sang in folk clubs and bands with my friends. I noticed smoking was affecting my singing. I tried to stop so many times, but every time I gave in.

Then I went into hospital with pneumonia. My chest X-ray showed I had emphysema and COPD. I smoked my last cigarette that day.

Quitting was so hard, but I overcame my cravings using nicotine gum. After I quit, I felt better and better! And my singing got better too – a whole upper octave that I couldn’t reach before.

Then I came down with bad flu and a cough that wouldn’t clear – I found out I had lung cancer.

Words can’t express the terrible devastation I felt. They removed my entire lung. At first, I was too weak to eat let alone chew gum – so I was weaned off the gum. I became a 100% non-nicotine addict for the first time since I was 12.

I’m still singing! I just feel so lucky. When you smoke, and you’ve been diagnosed with a lung condition, it scares you – so you smoke more. That’s your crutch. But you owe it to yourself to stop. Life is so valuable.

Next: What about the withdrawal symptoms? >

FAQ – Dealing with withdrawal symptoms

Anyway, congratulations on your efforts. In addition to the 21 mg/24 hour patch you are using, you can also chew six 2 mg sticks of gum, for example, to relieve the cravings that are hard to ignore.


I. Question: I quit smoking about a week and a half ago. I used to smoke a cigarette when I went to the bathroom. The fact of not smoking when I go to the toilet is making me constipated.

Answer: As you have seen nicotine has a stimulating effect on intestinal transit and helps bowel movements and you have developed an automatism in this situation. Constipation is one of the symptoms that occur during nicotine withdrawal. This symptom will gradually decline during the first 1-2 months of quitting.

Meanwhile, as it is unpleasant, I suggest you put things right using a simple remedy such as eating tamarind jam or prunes that have soaked overnight, in the mornings. You should also make sure that you have an adequate intake of fluids – at least 1½ liters per day, and even more if you are doing sport. If that is still not enough you may need to consider taking a laxative, preferably a fiber-based one.

Good luck in your efforts, which will succeed if you can do without that cigarette to go to the toilet. If you keep the habit for a long time, there is a risk that you will increase your consumption bit by bit until you are smoking as many as you were before.

II. Question: It has been 3 weeks since I quit smoking and became a happy ex-smoker! There are a few lows, but a lot of great highs!!! I do have a problem since I stopped smoking though. I have a problem with my intestines; I often have pain and bloating which is not very pleasant and which coincides with my stopping smoking… Well to be honest, I already had a problem with my bowels, but not as much and above all it did not last as long. Could this be related?

Answer: Yes, it may be related because nicotine activates intestinal transit. Therefore stopping smoking slows down intestinal transit, which can manifest itself as bloating and constipation, which can both cause abdominal pain due to pressure on the intestinal wall. This gradually decreases with the disappearance of withdrawal symptoms in 1-2 months. Make sure that you drink enough and increase the fiber in your diet with fruit, salad, vegetables and whole grain cereals and move! A laxative is only needed in cases of severe constipation.

III. Question: It is now 8 months since I quit smoking, the first months I was very constipated and I had just recovered an almost normal transit by eating lots of vegetables and fruit. Now last week I had diverticulitis which must be operated on next month. The doctor told me that this is due to constipation and stress. Could stopping smoking have caused this?

Answer: Diverticulitis is not caused either by smoking or by quitting smoking and occurs in both smokers and non-smokers alike. On the other hand cessation may have caused constipation during the first months but not long enough cause the diverticula. Diverticulitis is an inflammation of diverticula (diverticulosis) of the large intestine which appear very frequently as people get older, this takes place over a number of years (not eight months). Constipation and a diet that is low in fiber could be contributory factors to the formation of these diverticula, but there are probably other causes that we do not know. We do not know what caused a sudden inflammation of a diverticulum (diverticulitis), just as we do not know what causes appendicitis. I doubt that we can attribute it to stress, which is a convenient scapegoat and is invoked every time the cause is unknown. I’m sure the doctor has no solid evidence that stress is the cause.

Smoking and Respiratory Diseases

Facts about smoking and respiratory diseases

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diseases caused by smoking kill more than 480,000 people in the U.S. each year. In fact, smoking is directly responsible for almost 90% of lung cancer and COPD deaths. Even with antismoking campaigns and health warnings, many people continue to smoke or start to smoke every year. About 8% of kids under age 18 are current tobacco users.

What are the risks linked to smoking?

Smokers increase their risk of lung disease, including lung cancer. But they also increase their risk of other illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and mouth (oral) cancer. Risks from smoking, as they relate to lung disease, include the following:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This includes:

  • Chronic bronchitis. This is a long-term (chronic) inflammation of the large airways (bronchi). Symptoms include coughing mucus over a long period.

  • Emphysema. This chronic lung condition affects the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, fatigue, sleep and heart problems, weight loss, and depression.

Lung cancer. This is an abnormal growth of cells that can result in lumps, masses, or tumors. It may start in the lining of the bronchi, or other areas of the respiratory system. Smoking, including secondhand smoke, is the leading cause of lung cancer. Symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Cough

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Wheezing

  • Recurring lung infections

  • Bloody or rust-colored sputum

  • Hoarseness

  • Swelling of the neck and face

  • Pain and weakness in the shoulders, arms, or hands

  • Unexplained fever

Other cancers. Smoking increases the risk of lung and oral cancer. But it also increases the risk of other respiratory system cancers. These include cancer of the nose, sinuses, voice box, and throat. Smoking also increases the risk of many other cancers of GI (gastrointestinal), urinary, and female reproductive systems.

The symptoms of smoking-related lung diseases may look like other lung conditions or health problems. If you have any symptoms of lung disease, see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

How dangerous is secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke is smoke that is exhaled by smokers and smoke emitted from the burning end of a lit cigarette, cigar, or pipe. It causes more than 7,000 lung cancer deaths each year in people who don’t smoke. It can also lead to lung conditions and heart disease. Symptoms linked to secondhand smoke exposure may include:

  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation

  • Coughing

  • Too much mucus in the airways

  • Chest discomfort or pain

Children and infants exposed to tobacco smoke are more likely to experience ear infections, and asthma. They are also at a higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than children and infants not exposed to secondhand smoke.

What are the benefits of quitting smoking?

People who quit smoking can actually reverse some of the lung damage. Other benefits of quitting smoking may include the following:

  • Decreased risk for lung disease

  • Decreased risk for heart disease

  • Decreased risk for cancer

  • Reduced cigarette stains on fingers and teeth

  • Reduced occurrence of cough

  • Elimination of stale cigarettes smell on clothing and hair

  • Improved smell and taste

  • Saving money by not buying cigarettes

How does cigar smoking affect a person’s risk of lung cancer and other types of cancer?

Cigars actually pose the same, if not greater, risk as cigarettes for oral cancer. Although many cigar smokers do not inhale, their risk for oral, throat, and esophageal cancers is the same as for cigarette smokers. Consider these facts from the CDC:

  • Compared with nonsmokers, cigar smokers who inhale are more likely to develop oral cancer, esophageal cancer, and laryngeal cancer.

  • Cigar smokers who inhale and smoke 5cigars a day may have a lung cancer risk similar to one-pack-a-day cigarette smokers.

  • Secondhand smoke from cigars contains toxins and cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) similar to secondhand cigarette smoke, but in higher concentrations.

How do people stop smoking?

Quitting smoking is very difficult. The following tips can help you quit using tobacco products:

  • Think about why you want to quit. Make a list of the reasons.

  • Set a quit date.

  • Try to pick a time when you have as little stress as possible.

  • Ask for support and encouragement from family, friends, and coworkers.

  • If you don’t already exercise, start to increase your physical activity to improve your health.

  • Try to get enough sleep each night and eat healthy. Along with exercise, healthy sleeping and eating habits will help you cope with quitting.

  • Join a smoking cessation program or support group. These programs are available in most communities. There are also programs available by phone and online:

    • Try the website.

    • Try your state’s quitline. Call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669).

Medicines to help you stop smoking

There are both prescription and over-the-counter medicines that can help you stop smoking. Talk with your healthcare provider about these medicines and whether or not any of them are right for you.

Over-the-counter medicines:

  • Nicotine patch. Nicotine is delivered through the skin.

  • Nicotine gum. Gum delivers nicotine quickly.

  • Nicotine lozenge. Lozenges are like hard candy.

Prescription medicines:

  • Nicotine nasal spray. Nicotine is also delivered quickly.

  • Nicotine inhaler. Using an inhaler is like smoking cigarettes.

  • Antidepressant medicine (bupropion). It helps to lessen cravings for nicotine.

  • Varenicline tartrate. It helps to lessen the discomfort of quitting. It also lessens the pleasure you get from smoking.

When Will Shortness of Breath Go Away?

Congratulations on quitting smoking. You have taken a huge step toward decreasing your risk of acute and chronic disease.

Your shortness of breath may be caused by a number of different problems. It’s important to consider when you started smoking, how long you have smoked, and how many packs a day you smoked. The risk of permanent lung disease increases the earlier you start smoking, the longer you smoke, and the heavier you smoke. Another possibility is that you are actually suffering from asthma – specifically, exercise-induced asthma. Many people with this condition experience shortness of breath or coughing only when they exercise. They may never experience wheezing or other commonly known asthma symptoms. Finally, it might just be taking your body a little longer to overcome the effects of smoking.

I recommend that you visit your physician for a pulmonary function test, which can detect whether you have any permanent lung damage. A more specialized breathing test can diagnose exercise-induced asthma. You may find, however, that your lungs are working well and that you just need a little more time before your breathing holds up under the stress of intense exercise. Good luck!

Learn How to Clean Lungs After Quitting Smoking

If you don’t have a chronic lung disease, but your lungs hurt after quitting smoking, these exercises will help cleanse your lungs and get them back to full health.

Pursed lip breathing is done by slowly inhaling through the nose for approximately 2 seconds. and exhaling through the mouth for approximately 4 seconds, making sure to purse your lips constricting airflow.

Breathe out steadily and slowly. The extra time spent on the exhale compared to the inhale is important.

Be sure to relax your head, neck and shoulders throughout the exercise. The benefits of pursed lip breathing exercises include:

  • Opening air passages for easier breathing.
  • Moving old and stale air out of the lungs.
  • Promoting relaxation.
  • Relieving shortness of breath.

Diaphragmatic breathing (also called belly breathing) is another breathing exercise that helps increase pulmonary function.

Doing this exercise can help clean your lungs after quitting smoking. Diaphragmatic breathing is similar to pursed lip breathing, but it adds an element of diaphragm exercise.

To practice diaphragmatic breathing place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. As you inhale allow the hand on your belly to rise up while the hand on your chest remains in place.

During the exhale, breathe out slowly through pursed lips. Use the hand that is on your belly to help push air out. Repeat the exercise 3 to 10 times.

Benefits of diaphragmatic breathing include:

  • Strengthening and lengthening of respiratory muscles.
  • Increasing cardiorespiratory fitness.

How to Clean Lungs After Quitting Smoking: Physical Exercise

Physical fitness is a critical aspect of a healthy body, including the lungs.

The benefits of physical exercise are numerous and range from weight control, reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, improving mental health and mood, and reducing risk of some cancers.

Furthermore, exercising releases endorphins and dopamine, which helps with nicotine withdrawal.

Yoga includes a large component of breath exercises and whole body exercises. Both are good for healthy lung function and improving your lungs after quitting smoking. Consider adding a yoga routine to your day.

If you aren’t accustomed to physical exercise then slowly add it to your routine.

Gradually ramp up your physical activity as the weeks turn into months. As you exercise, you may notice coughing will occur as a response.

By exercising, the phlegm and mucus in your respiratory system becomes dislodged and you cough to expel it from your system.

The coughing may be uncomfortable, but getting rid of all the gunk will help heal your lungs after quitting smoking. Hit two birds with one stone and get outside to exercise in some fresh outdoor air.

Do Your Lungs Get Better After Quitting Smoking?

While diet, breathing exercises and physical exercise can all help repair lung damage and promote lung health, the bottom line is smoking (especially longterm) causes severe damage to the lungs, that may be irreversible.

That said, continuing to smoke will only make this damage worse and lead to an increased likelihood of COPD and lung cancer.

The sooner you quit smoking, the better your chances of lung repair are.

There are a lot of products out there claiming to clean lungs after quitting smoking but there is no scientific evidence that any of these products work.

According to Dr Joshua Englert “There are countless products for sale on the internet that claim to remove toxins from the lungs, but there is no scientific research to support the use of any of them.”

While there typically isn’t any harm in trying these methods it’s important to realize there are no quick fixes to smoke induced lung damage.

The lungs are good at cleaning themselves and over time as you refrain from smoking, second hand smoke, and any other lung pollutants such as vaping or poor air quality, they will begin to heal themselves.

Can Lungs Get Better After 40 Years of Smoking?

If you have been smoking for decades it will take your lungs decades to repair themselves, and they will likely never return to normal. That said, stopping smoking after 40 years is better than continuing to smoke for 45 or 50 years.

It’s never too late to quit and while your lungs may never heal completely, they will begin to get better once you stop smoking, even if you’ve been smoking your whole life.

One large study found after 20 years of quitting smoking, the risk for COPD drops to the same level as if you’d never smoked. And after 30 years, the risk of lung cancer also drops to nonsmoking levels.

As you can see, it takes decades for the lungs to heal and this process gets longer the more you smoke.

Can You Get Tar Removed From Your Lungs?

If you’ve been smoking for a long time, you have tar in your lungs. Tar refers to the toxic particles left behind in the lungs. Tar lines the lungs and colors them black. It damages the cilia in the lungs and airway that are responsible for cleaning the lungs.

Tar also contains toxins such as carbon monoxide, ammonia and hydrogen cyanide.

There is no procedure or medication that instantly removes tar from your lungs. This process takes time. After quitting smoking, the cilia will begin to repair themselves, and slowly but surely get to work removing the tar from your lungs. Cilia can take anywhere from 1 to 9 months to heal after you quit smoking.

Research shows that for every 6 years you smoked, it takes 1 year to remove that amount of tar from your respiratory system.

Protect Your Lungs

If you’ve quit smoking and are working on healing your lungs, be patient with the process, avoid pollutants, avoid situations that may trigger cravings and generally maintain a healthy lifestyle.

You should not inhale anything other than pure clean air, and work to keep yourself healthy. Illnesses like bronchitis and even head colds can result in increased mucus production which will be harder on your lungs.

By staying healthy you give your body the best chance at recovery.

When to contact a doctor

Contact a doctor right away if you are having chest pain after quitting smoking that radiates into the left arm, neck and jaw; tightness, squeezing, or heaviness in the chest; shortness of breath, sweating, and nausea.

If you are struggling to quit smoking a doctor can help.

Studies show talking with a doctor about quitting improves your chance of success by more than double.

A doctor can help construct a quit-plan that is right for you including recommendations for over-the-counter or prescription medications such as Chantix.

If you are ready to quit, call or book online with PlushCare to set up a video appointment with a top U.S. doctor today. Our doctors have helped countless patients quit smoking by providing supportive, realistic treatment plans, including necessary prescriptions.

Read More About How To Clean Lungs After Quitting Smoking

  • Get Chantix Online
  • Top Tips For Quitting Smoking
  • What Are Common Withdrawl Symptoms of Quitting Smoking?
  • Benefits of Quitting Smoking
  • What Quit Smoking App Should You Try?


Medline Plus. Lymph system. Accessed September 29, 2019 at

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