Quit smoking to lower your asthma risk

You’ll find it’s so much easier to stay on top of your asthma symptoms once you’ve given up smoking.

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

Here you can find out more about the benefits of giving up smoking - and get some top tips to help.

Smoking: the risks to your asthma

Most people are aware of the dangers of smoking, whether it's cigarettes, cigars, pipes, shisha or roll-ups. Smoking brings a range of health risks. And if you have asthma, that includes the risk of a life-threatening asthma attack.  

On top of this, smoking stops your asthma medicines doing their job properly. So, even if you’re taking all your asthma medicines as prescribed, you’ll be more at risk of symptoms like breathlessness, wheezing and coughing.

There’s a longer term risk too: if you carry on smoking, and your asthma continues to be difficult to manage, you’re at risk of other serious lung conditions like COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).

Even if you don't go on to develop other lung conditions, your lung function is likely to get worse if you continue to smoke.

How smoking puts your child at risk of asthma symptoms

Quitting smoking is an important step for managing your own asthma. It’s also an important way to make sure your child stays safe and well if they have asthma.

And whether your child has asthma or not, you’ll be cutting their risk of coughs and wheezes when you stub out your last cigarette.

Smoking in pregnancy puts your baby at risk

If you smoke during pregnancy it can affect how well your baby’s lungs develop. This means their lungs won’t work as well as they should after they’re born.

Your child will be 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.

Your baby might be born too early which means their lungs won’t be fully developed yet. This also increases their risk of wheezing and coughing in early childhood.

Smoking around your child makes their symptoms worse

Anyone smoking around your child is putting them at risk.

Even if your child doesn’t have asthma, being around people smoking increases the risk of them getting childhood wheeze.

And if your child does have asthma, smoking around them will make their symptoms worse. They’ll be more likely to cough and may not sleep well.

If you smoke, your child is more likely to start smoking

Did you know that children who live with people who smoke are three times more likely to start smoking themselves than children in smoke-free homes?

And if they do start smoking as a child or teenager they’re increasing their risk of asthma symptoms continuing into adulthood. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that teenagers who start smoking double their risk of developing asthma.

So, it’s another good reason to quit - for your child’s health as well as your own.

Why giving up smoking is great for your asthma

In just a few days you’ll notice an improvement to your symptoms after giving up smoking. Very quickly your lungs will start to clear out.

And once your airways are less irritated by the smoke and chemicals from smoking, your usual preventer medicines will work better too. This means you’ll be able to manage your asthma a lot more easily.

You may notice you don’t need your reliever inhaler as much, because symptoms aren’t flaring up.

And after about three to nine months your lung function increases by up to 10%. This means less breathlessness and coughing and more energy to do the things you want to do.  

So, if you quit smoking you can look forward to:

  • breathing more easily as your airways begin to relax
  • coughing less
  • having more energy
  • fewer symptoms
  • less risk of an asthma attack

7 tips to help you quit

Even when you're fully aware of the dangers of smoking, it's not always easy to quit. It's not impossible though and lots of people manage to stop smoking every day.

Try our seven top tips to help you keep going:

1. Get support from your GP or asthma nurse while you're giving up

Some people with asthma find their symptoms are worse when they first give up smoking. These will gradually improve though, so try not to let this put you off.

Your GP or asthma nurse can help you stay on top of any symptoms while sticking to your stop smoking plan.

For example, you can make sure your asthma action plan is up to date so you know what to do if you’re concerned about worsening symptoms.

They can also show you the real improvements of giving up smoking with peak flow or spirometry tests. These should show improved lung function once you quit.

2. Avoid situations that make you want to smoke

Research shows that being in certain places or situations can trigger cravings to smoke. And changing some of your habits or routines can help you avoid these cravings.

Think about where and when you’re used to smoking and see if you can mix things up a bit to help you break the habit. Try distracting yourself by talking to someone, checking your phone, or getting up and moving around.

If stressful situations trigger your need to smoke, try thinking about ways to avoid stress. Or are there ways you could deal with stress differently?

3. Keep your hands busy

If you’re feeling fidgety because you’re missing the hand to mouth movements of smoking, why not try doing something else with your hands?

You could fiddle with a pen or pencil, an elastic band, or even invest in a fidget toy or game.

4. List your reasons for quitting

Do you want to save money? Do you want to feel fit and healthy? Are you sick of having asthma symptoms? Do you want to protect your children from second-hand smoke?

Whatever your reasons for trying to quit, having a list of your reasons somewhere you can see it every day (especially in places where you usually smoke), can be a real motivator. Look at your list every time you’re tempted to smoke and remind yourself why you want to give up.

"Write a list of all the reasons why you gave up. If you’re giving up for your children, put a photo of them where you used to keep your cigarettes." 

5. Use stop smoking treatments

There’s a range of treatments to help reduce your craving to smoke, including nicotine patches, e-cigarettes, and tablets. 

Did you know that using stop smoking treatments doubles your chances of quitting for good?

6. Make use of free stop smoking support services 

You're much more likely to give up and stay away from smoking if you have support.

Your GP, asthma nurse or pharmacist  can advise you about how to get started on your stop smoking plan, lend support, and put you in touch with local NHS Stop Smoking Services.

It’s very common for people who try to give up smoking to make several attempts to stop before they stop for good. If this is you, you’re not alone. Just give it another go, and make sure you have the support in place to help you.

7. Set a date for when you smoke your last cigarette - and stick to it

Set a date for when you’re going to start seeing yourself as an ex-smoker and throw away all lighters, ashtrays and all cigarettes.  Why not think about an enjoyable way you could mark the occasion?

Quitting isn't easy, but if you have asthma, it's one of the best things you can do to improve your health and well-being. Keep in mind the long-term benefits of giving up - fewer asthma symptoms, better quality of life, better health, and healthier children. Before long you'll start to feel and notice real improvements to your asthma and your health in general from giving up smoking.Sonia Munde, Head of Services

Last updated September 2018

Next review due November 2021