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Now that You Have Quit Smoking

Congratulations on your decision to stop smoking.  It is a major step that will improve your health and your life.  And the removal of secondhand smoke from your environment will benefit your family, too.  Here are a few tips from the American Association for Respiratory Care that can help you stay on track.

If you have just quit, you may experience these symptoms at first as your body gets used to being smoke free.

  • You may have a headache. Check with your doctor to see if you can take a pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • You may feel nauseated. Avoid foods that will upset your stomach. Drink lots of water to help flush the nicotine and other chemicals that are in smoke out of your body.
  • You may feel anxious. Take several deep breaths. Fill your lungs as full as you can and hold it for a few seconds. This has been shown to decrease the craving for smoking and is a method of decreasing stress. Get up and move around or take a walk.  Tell yourself you can do this.

Stick with it. The good news is that the symptoms will decrease each day you don’t smoke. It only takes around four days for the nicotine to leave your body.

Your body started to undo many of the effects of smoking right away.  Here are just some of the improvements you may have already noticed.
 

  • Blood pressure, pulse and temperature go down (although you should not stop blood pressure medication until told to do so by your doctor).
  • Taste and smell improve.
  • Circulation begins to improve, making it easier to walk and get active.
  • Bronchial tubes relax, making it easier to breathe.
  • Your risk of heart attack decreases.
  • Your ability to heal and fight off infections improves as the bad chemicals in smoke leave your body.
  • Carbon monoxide decreases and oxygen levels increase.
  • Your risk of cancer is less than if you had kept smoking.

How do I keep going?
Once you make it through one day without smoking, try to make it through another. Write down the positive things about getting through the day without smoking. Track the number of days you are successful.

What if I smoke?
If you smoke, think about why you couldn’t resist the urge. What messages were you giving yourself? What was going on that made it too hard not to smoke? Once you have thought it through, make a plan for the next time this happens and try again the next day. Throw away any remaining cigarettes. Do not finish the pack - it will only make it that much harder. It is not easy to throw away “money”, but face it - that is what you have been doing all along.

How can I stay smoke free long term?

Each day tell yourself that you are choosing not to smoke. Having a plan to deal with those things that trigger the urge to smoke will be very important. Most people who have quit will say that they continue to want a cigarette for many years after they have been successful in quitting, but that they feel so much better physically that they are able to resist the urges.

Posted: May 2008

© 2018 American Association for Respiratory Care