Quit smoking to lower your asthma risk

One of the best things you can do to improve your asthma, or your child's asthma, is give up smoking.

Health advice > Managing your asthma 

Smoking: the risks to your asthma

Whether it's cigarettes, cigars, pipes, shisha or roll-ups, smoking increases your risk of asthma symptoms and asthma attacks.

On top of this, smokers need higher doses of steroid preventer medicine to keep down the inflammation in their airways.

This means your asthma is harder to manage on an everyday basis so you’re more likely to have symptoms like breathlessness, coughing, wheezing and a tight chest.

In the long term, if your asthma continues to be difficult to manage, and you continue to smoke, you’ll be more at risk of other serious lung conditions like COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).

Giving up smoking is good news for your asthma

Giving up smoking lowers your asthma risk dramatically, whatever your age, or however long you’ve been smoking.

And you won’t need to wait long to start seeing the benefits – in just a few days your asthma symptoms should improve as your lungs quickly start to clear out all the toxins.

You can look forward to:

  • breathing more easily as your airways begin to relax
  • fewer symptoms and lower asthma attack risk
  • more energy as your lung function improves
  • better defences against colds and flu

Stop smoking to lower the asthma risks for your baby and child

Smoking during pregnancy can affect how well your baby’s lungs develop in the womb, and how well their lungs work once your baby is born.

There’s more risk of your baby being born early if you smoke, so their lungs won’t have a chance to develop fully before they’re born.

Smoking during pregnancy means your baby is more likely to wheeze or develop a cough that won’t go away.

They’ll be more at risk of getting asthma, or other breathing problems.

If you smoke around your baby or child they’ll be more at risk of coughing and wheezing, whether they have asthma or not.

Babies and children under two are more likely to develop bronchiolitis if their parents smoke.  

If your child has asthma, smoking around them puts them at risk of asthma symptoms and asthma attacks.

And children who live with people who smoke are three times more likely to start smoking themselves than children in smoke-free homes.

Ready to quit smoking?

The good news is there’s a lot of support out there to help you quit, and treatments like nicotine patches, stop smoking medicines and e-cigarettes to help with the cravings.

It’s not always easy to quit, and it may take you a few attempts. But keep at it - evidence shows that a combination of advice and support, along with the right stop smoking treatments for you, is the best way to achieve your stop smoking goal.

Your GP, asthma nurse or pharmacist can advise you about how to get started and put you in touch with local NHS Stop Smoking Services.

Keep an eye on your asthma symptoms when you first give up

Sometimes people notice their asthma symptoms get worse when they first give up smoking.

“This isn’t unusual,” says Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK’s in-house GP, “but don’t let it put you off. Asthma symptoms will gradually improve, and you’ll soon notice real benefits to your asthma and your overall health.”

Your GP or asthma nurse can help you by:

  • checking your asthma medicines both while you’re following a stop smoking plan, and once you’ve managed to quit.
  • keeping your asthma action plan up to date so you know what to do if you notice symptoms getting worse
  • checking your lung function with tests like peak flow, FeNo or spirometry so you can see how things have improved since you quit smoking. If you keep a peak flow diary you may have a new top peak flow score now you’ve stopped smoking.

Find out more about stop smoking services, with tips and ideas on keeping going when you’re trying to quit


Last updated March 2020

Next review due March 2023

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