Have you ever wondered if your cold or flu lasts longer than it would if you didn’t smoke?
A strong functioning immune system is an important part of our overall health. Research has shown that people who use tobacco on average are sicker for longer periods. In addition, tobacco users, particularly those who smoke, are more likely to get ill and have a higher risk of severe illness. This has been especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic. A large study of people with COVID-19 found that people who smoke were 2.4 times more likely to get very sick, be admitted to an intensive care unit, need mechanical ventilation, and die.
On average, people who use tobacco:
- Go to the doctor more often
- Are admitted to the hospital more often
- Miss 8 or more days of work per year
Most people know that smoking causes cancer and heart disease
But not everyone knows that smoking and nicotine also affect your immune system. Smoking is a major cause of many autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, COPD, lupus, Inflammatory bowel disease, and macular degeneration.
Here are some of the reasons why your immune system is impacted
- Nicotine and the chemicals that are inhaled while smoking or vaping suppress immune function, reduce antioxidants, and cause chronic inflammation.
- Tar, along with other toxins in tobacco, destroys antibodies, compromising the immune system.
- Carbon monoxide replaces the oxygen in the blood, robbing the body’s organs of oxygen and leaving the body’s defense system compromised.
Some people are shocked to find that they feel worse when they quit smoking
They typically experience a term most commonly called the “smokers flu”. Their cough worsens, and they may get a sore throat, headache, fatigue, and insomnia which can last up to a month and sometimes more. These are symptoms of the body detoxifying and healing after quitting smoking or vaping. The good news is that reducing by 50% or greater or by quitting smoking can improve your immune system and help it restore almost completely back to normal, compared to those who don’t smoke or vape.
Many people even find that it is easier to quit when they are actually sick with a cold or flu
Why? Because they lose their desire to smoke or use tobacco products. Most doctors agree that the best way to strengthen your immune system is to:
- Quit smoking
- Eat a healthy diet (low in processed sugar and high in plant-based foods)
- Exercise regularly
- Get plenty of sleep
Cold and flu season is around the corner, so don’t wait
This is the ideal time to quit using tobacco products. If you have downloaded the Pivot app, now could be the perfect time to protect your immune system.
Shannon Brown, Ph.D., NCTTP
Holly Dunn, BS, NBC-HWC, NCTTP