Breathing and asthma initially got worse after quitting

Not only was I damaging my lungs with smoking, I was asthmatic too. I must have been utterly crazy! When I stopped smoking, my chest got even worse. I put it down to clearing out the gunk, which is absolutely true.

But after six months I went to see my GP practice nurse, desperately worried my asthma was getting worse. She was fab and explained that there are tiny hair-like projections in the lungs called cilia. Usually they act as an air filter, protecting the lungs from dust, mucus, tar and smoke. Unfortunately cigarette smoke damages the cilia so they no longer work properly. You don't need me to tell you the damage that can be caused when a filter fails to work.

After stopping smoking, the cilia gradually start to grow back and function properly again. The initial downside is that breathing can sometimes feel more difficult. The nurse checked my lung function, assured me it had improved and said my awareness of my breathing was perfectly normal as that is how your lungs are supposed to work!

After that I set about staying off cigarettes and getting more exercise.

Now, three years on, I have more stamina and lung capacity than I had at 25. On top of that, I now know that my lungs are functioning properly and mopping up all the nasty stuff we all inhale every day (fumes from traffic jams, the smoke from smokers clogging up the doorways of pubs etc!).

So, if it is taking longer than you expected to get your breathing back to normal - be patient! It's just your body starting to work the way it was designed to again!

8 Replies

  • Another thing is at least one of the chemicals in cigs actually acts as a bronchodilator, so smoking can actually ease some of the acute asthma symptoms, although longterm making it far far worse!

    I have been asthmatic as long as I remember. Last year I had no inhaler for several months (long story) and found if I woke up wheezing a cigarette helped. It would ease the wheezing, but actually they were causing the wheezing too!

    I guess it is a bit like being really sad you are overweight, so having a chocolate bar to cheer yourself up?!!!

    I find it can take 6 months for my asthma to regulate (on my last two quits) and I need to change up all my meds.

  • I remember feeling like I was gasping for air . . like having a panic attack quite early on but that was the nicotine craving . . I feel like I'm breathing in lovely cool clean crisp mountain air . . its amazing! No wheezing . . no tickly/chesty/rattly old lady cough and my voice is less husky too. I feel terrible that I did all that to my body but knowing it's recovering is amazing.

  • Feeling better

    Yes you are all right, I had a bad bout of bronchitis before my quit and was gasping for air, I really thought I was going to die, and that frightened me enough to stop. I feel so much better now and to be honest happier in myself as well

  • Because of asthma after quitting smoking, the most secure method to tackle this is to have modifications in your asthma medicine under the close guidance of your Doctor or asthma nurse.

  • hi - i was hoping for some advice, my asthma was very well controlled, i was using symbicort twice a day and never used my blue inhaler even with exercise, however i went on holiday and smoked quite alot for only about 5 days - have not smoked since. However after 5 days my asthma got worse, my inhalers didnt make much difference and I have a constant tight chest, I was on 3 courses of pred however this made little difference, I am now on seratide 500 and speriver (sp?) this has been going on for two months and still see little improvement - I am worried my asthma will never return back to normal - anyone else experience anything similar when they started smoking? Am getting worried about it now

  • It shows you have looked hard going by the date of the OP and it's a good issue to bring up, I cannot help you personally with the asthma but over the tight chests it had me with concerns on my quit, my chest tightened up badly or so I thought and it wasn't easing up either after a good few months and like you I was looking through the board and a few posts eased me a bit, as I'd already started to repair myself a while before it took a little bit of exercise to get rid of all the rusty shopping trolly's and burnt out cars that my lungs had accumulated in time even a half pence piece lol but you get the picture.

  • I actually went to the hospital emergency early in my quit because of bad chest pain. I also have asthma, it went away a week or so later and they had told me it was likely from anxiety so I think I was just over thinking about quitting smoking and working myself up!

  • Glad to hear others have had similar experiences. I was diagnosed with asthma when I was 10 or 100, and started smoking when I was 16, finding that it didn't really affect the asthma too much, and it was only 15 to 20 years later that it started getting bad when I got a cold, a chest infection, or the flu I stopped a few years back, when I was 40, and was off them for 2 years, which was awesome, but I got complacent and didn't realise that like an alcoholic, there is no "just one" drink, and after buying a packet of 10 ( although i only wanted ONE ), I smoked the rest of the pack and was hooked again.

    I went to Corfu for a few weeks and although I normally smoked rolling tobacco ( amber leaf ) I found that a brand I smoked years ago ( Camel ), were really cheap, and smoked 20 a day the whole 2 weeks I was there. I normally would've had 10 roll-ups a day back home.

    Maybe it was the heat relaxing me, that made me inhale more deeply, or just the switch from rollups to conventional cigarettes, but shortly after returning my asthma got worse and I was taking my blue inhaler a lot more.

    I went to the astha nurse for a review, and after having spirometry tests, was told i had the "lung age of an 87 year old", and they have diagnosed me with COPD, ( which I disagree with, because COPD doesn't happen over the space of a month, and as I have a hiatus hernia, and bad posture due to working at a computer practically all day )

    Anyway....present day.....I have quit again, for good this time, and armed with the experience of knowing what happens when you get complacent after 2 years.

    I've been quit 10 days now....cold patches, no champix, no junk...........and my asthma is initially worse, to the point where the inhalers aren't working. Before I quit the asthma nurse told me they were only 6% effective.

    Right now I feel tight chested on my sternum, but also a kinda choking sensation somewhere at the base of my windpipe.

    Its comforting to read these and know that this will eventually subside, and I know one cigarette would act as a broncho-dilator, but the analogy of the chocolate bar was perfect.

    Right now, I feel free, strong-minded, victorious over an enemy that has besieged me for 29 years, but I'm playing a waiting game right now, as im too tight chested to do any exercise besides little dog walks of a few hundred metres ( I used to kick box and the hell did it get to this ?!!! )

    Thanks people for giving me hope this will improve. Im very much looking forward to getting back to being my old self again...minus the cigarettes.

You may also like...