The Quitters Flu.

Man with Quitters FluHave you recently quit smoking and now find yourself feeling sick? You may be suffering from the quitters flu; a number of symptoms that combine in such a manner they  resemble a cold or flu like illness. Most smokers who quit will experience it.


What are the Quitters Flu Symptoms?

As mentioned above, quitters flu symptoms resemble those that tend to accompany the common cold or flu. These can be headaches, flashes of hot and cold, chest congestion, cough, sore throat and both nasal and sinus congestion.

The moment you quit smoking your body begins to heal and as a result, these physical symptoms will tend to occur. It is a normal part of the process, though discussing such symptoms with your doctor is still a good idea, even if for peace of mind and reassurance.

Perhaps the most notable of these flu like symptoms are those associated with the respiratory system.

A microscopic photo of cilia lining the human wind pipe. Image made available using creative commons licence.

The lungs contain small hair like structures called cilia. (They look more like sea anemones.) These cilia, naturally sweep particles out of the wind pipe to be expelled by coughing.

Tobacco smoke coats the lungs with tar and disrupts this process by preventing the cilia from working. When you quit smoking, the tar begins to break down and the cilia once again start cleaning.

Quitters will likely notice a blackish – brown and often speckled phlegm as a result. Given the amount of rubbish that builds up in a smokers lungs, this can be quiet extreme and often takes time to settle down.

The ability to breath easier and maintain a greater state of healthiness, more than make up for the unpleasantness of quitters flu. The symptoms of quitters flu should also start to settle after a few weeks.

How long does Quitters Flu Last?

The length of time you may suffer quitters flu symptoms is variable. Some ex smokers may only suffer the symptoms for a number of days. For others it can last for months. My own quitters flu lasted on and off for several months, though only extreme for short periods of time, most notably over the first couple of weeks.

Over the longer term, I found that exercise enhanced some of the symptoms, but also helped clear out my lungs. If the symptoms feel quite serious or last for more than a few days at a time, I would suggest speaking to a doctor as you may actually have a genuine cold or flu!

What I personally find interesting, is that since quitting smoking two years ago, I have only suffered a genuine cold (virus) twice, and suffered for no longer than 72 hours. Prior to quitting, I would suffer two or three colds a year and they would last for around two weeks!


Tips for Managing the Quitters Flu.


Rest During the Early Stages.

Quitters flu is at its worst in the early days of a quit smoking campaign. It may help to rest and be as comfortable as possible, while allowing the healing process to happen. Consider drinking warm herbal teas to aid relaxation and relieve some of the symptoms.

Eat Quality Foods and Micro Nutrients.

The body gets the majority of nutrients needed to heal, from the foods we eat. If these foods are of a high quality and have sound  nutritional value, the more building blocks your body will have to aid the process. Consider eating more fresh fruit and vegetables and less processed and over cooked foods.

When You Feel Ready, Get Some Exercise.

Exercise promotes healthy lung function and helps accelerates the cleaning process. Consider starting with a daily, fast paced, five minute walk around the block.



  1. Day 3 of quitting. I am really not having an issue with cravings, I flat out don’t want one and the thought of it makes me sick. I am however, extremely tired today and getting a really bad headache. I just want to be normal again! Smoked for 30 yrs. I am never going back to that crap, it’s poison.

    • Jackie Brown says:

      Congratulations!!! I’m on day 8…mild headaches but so looking forward to breathing and smelling the world again!

    • Louise today is my 8th day of not smoking and I was also a smoker for 30 years. Like you I haven’t even had a craving for a cigarette. However I am suffering the cold like symptoms. Good Luck to you.

    • Congrats to you and jackie & bobbi. I too am on day 8 today, and honestly I have not even had a craving. If I had known it would be this easy (the first 8 days anyway) I would have done this many moons ago. Good luck to us all! I for one will never ever put another cigarette near my mouth. PERIOD. 40 years. No cold symptoms either.

    • Helps to see all these posts. I’m not alone. On day 27 of no smoking. Had pneumonia when I quit. Not severe but enough to make me quit. The cough was horrible. Since, pneumonia is gone according to my doctor. However, I have since developed what I assume is the Quitters Flu I’ve been reading about. Almost a week now. Doctor took a chest x-ray. Have not heard back, but as he said, if it’s anything I would hear right away. It’s been 3 days. These chills, cough, short of breath are terrible. I’m going to tough it out though. No way I want to start over and go through this again. Why did I smoke for 40 years? Dumb!!! By the way, you know you are making progress when you go to the store, and people standing outside like I used to, really stink up the air. I never knew.

  2. I’m am on day 6. I am currently battling this ” smokers flu” been a week. I want it to go, but will never touch a cigarette again

  3. Anonymous says:

    Just quit smoking cigarettes 4 days ago (cold turkey no ecig, gum, etc). Been a smoker since I was 16 smoking a pack and a half a day, I’m now 20 gonna be 21 soon in a few months. I gotta say this is the best decision I’ve ever made in my entire life. The past few days of feeling like ABSOLUTE CRAP (anxiety attacks, face flush feeling, headaches, sore throat, dizziness, body chills, diarrhea, lack of sleep, very vivid dreams) has showed me it wasn’t ever ever.. worth the 4 years of sucking down ash and now I’m disgusted by it. Anyway, I wish everyone the best of luck quitting and stick to it!

    • Well done and please please stick with it. I’m 49 and quitting for the umpteenth time. My very first attempt was when I was 21 – it is my greatest life regret that I didn’t stick with it back then – and I wouldn’t be facing all the potential major health problems I am now facing. Smoking robs your life of everything good before it eventually steals your life itself. Never go back!

      • Well said. Congratulations and good luck to you. I, too have quit smoking. 70 days today. Cold turkey. Have been feeling fantastic but past few days have had insomnia, night sweats and all night and day coughing.

        This is my forth attempt.
        Ist time I quit for 3 years, back on them for few months, gave up again for 12 months.
        Back on for few months. Gave up again for 5 years and now have gone 10 weeks after smoking for a further 5 years.

        Good luck to everyone and know we are winning…

    • good vibes coming your way. Don’t wait 20, 30 40 years like some of us out here. You are making the absolute best decision you have or ever will make in your life. Take it from one who has been there!

  4. I’m on day 13 it’s been hard fin myself getting very angry and mood swings. I’m now feeling really undf the weather a barking cough and sore throat 😯

    • Kate jones says:

      I am on day 13 and because I feel so crappy haven’t even thought of a cig, nor do I want one. However, I have a cold, raging cough that is driving me crazy and constantly falling asleep . I am so ready to get to the other side of this…the cough is so dry, will it ever end? Good luck all, we can do it.

  5. Hello I’m on day 5 and it sucks feels like I can’t breath this cold stuff can leave anytime but I dnt even crave a smoke at all and the smell of it makes me sick but after I get over this I will feel better and I can’t wait I just want to say congrats to everyone that quit smoking it is not easy and I’m 33 I smoke sence I was 18

    • Good for you tracy! I’m 34 and smoked since i was 17/18. I’m coming up on 2 weeks cig free – quit cold turkey. The cravings are non existent – maybe had one or two cravings. I even drank some beers and hung around with two friends who smoke and i resisted. That was the biggest test. I woke up the next morning feeling like a million bucks. Keep it up everyone. I’ll take quitters flu over being a smoker again any day.

  6. I’m going on day 11 of my quit & day 6 of the coughing and stuffiness. I still haven’t had any cravings. I don’t want to go thru quitters flu again….

    Good Luck everyone!

  7. Day 15 here!! only a few real cig cravings during first 2 weeks, but i’ve been eating WHATEVER I want, so I haven’t smoked, but I’ve gained 4 lbs. I’m not worried about the weight gain (which everyone everywhere says is normal), though clearly I can’t keep using the fact that I quit smoking as a reason to keep eating sh*t. lol First things first, right!!! I smoked for 37 years, and quit a bunch of time, but for some reason I think this is THE LAST QUIT!!! I’m 54, no major health problems, and i know if I kept smoking it would have been only a matter of time before I would get them. So the time is NOW!! Quitters flu symptoms every morning, but deep breathing (meditation and yoga) have helped. May as well start some new lifestyle changes… I’m doing yoga, deep breathing, got back on the treadmill a few times (will increase that), and my home is cleaner than ever. Amazing what we can do with all the time and energy we now have. Good luck everyone!!! keep posting….it helps the rest of us. :)

  8. Had a heart attack at age 50. Quit cold turkey after 34 years. I have really tight chest and can’t cough, could this be from smokers flu? Not smoked for 7 weeks .

  9. I can relate to you Dawn, tight chest and no cough – simply awful. Quit cold turkey for 16 days now, from a pack a day for 15 years.
    You’ve gone 7 weeks though, so I think it’s time to get to the doctor for a check up if your chest is still painful.
    Good luck to the rest of you, from the sound of things I’m the only one who misses smoking! (obviously I opted for health over indulgence).

    • i smoked for 14 years. i had my last cigarrette on january 3rd 2016. i still get cravings but not as many as in the first week. my cough is not too bad but my sinus congestion is drinving me nuts. sure it has improved since the first weeks but i still have to blow my nose a many times each day and i wonder when it will end? all and all im happy to stay away from cogarrettes and i enjoy being able to run much better than i could 4 weeks ago. good luck to everyone

  10. Hello-
    I am on week 3 of quitting- started at 16 because my “cool” friends were doing it. I used it as a crutch for 30 years and told myself it was enjoyable. I have been very athletic most of my life managing to hide it from many friends. I agree with everyone who has posted- the quitting symptoms are very uncomfortable (my chest is very tight and sore and my head is in 24/7 headache mode) but not enough to cause a relapse; I want to live a long time. I just returned from shopping and was amazed by how many smelly smokers passed me in the store- I never noticed them before- I may not have hidden smoking as well as I thought after all! Good luck in your quest towards health and long life!

  11. Hi I am day 15 of stopping smoking and feel lousy I thought I was doing well, had bought a Nicolitte but was not using it very often ( though I must admit to being a terrible grouch ) but now am on day 5 of being in bed with flu never felt so ill in all my life !!!

  12. Hi all! This is a brilliant website, I found it through Google. I am 62yrs old, smoked since the age of 14, apart from when I was pregnant with my 2 grown up children. I am on Nicorette patches plus a Nicorette inhaler, quitting with the help of a Nurse at my GP surgery. I am on day 4 and started these flu type symptoms yesterday. My body aches, I am headachy and feel rather tired. This attempt to quit is about my 5th+ time over a period of about 10yrs. I am a bronchitis sufferer, have been since the 1970’s. Firs time I was ill with bronchitis I quit for 6 years. Because of the symptoms I am having now, I feel this time is going to be the toughest attempt yet. On other occasions I didnt feel like this so soon into my quit, nor did I get occasional cravings like I do despite using my inhaler on those occasions. I do so want to succeed this time. Early December I was so ill with bronchitis I collapsed at home & my GP was called out by my non-smoker husband. I had never been that ill before. 3 days in bed, 2 courses of anti-biotics to kill the infection too. Ive heard before that the older we get, the harder it is to quit. Think in my case it could be true. I tied Champix…never again!! As Im getting into my 60’s, being so ill is my whole reason to quit. I admit already I am feeling ‘under the weather’ but I must fight it hard, hoping these symptoms disappear soon, We all recover at different rates, just hope I can and will get over the worst part quickly.

  13. On day 6. Chant is helps with craving but woke up at 3 am. Still exhausted and my legs ache and hands hurt. Once I get the kids to school going to lay on my heating pad and watch a movie. Quit for 8 years once smoked one cigarette and have been hooked for the last eight years. Never again

  14. I’m 34 and smoked since I was 17. I’m coming up on 23 days clean. I’ve faced to the quitter flu. Never felt so ill in all my life.

  15. 58yrs old, smoked hard since 16, why?. Good deep question!!. 2 month cold turkey and here’s what been going on. Every nite those little tiny hairs are getting healthier thus working harder waking me up to cough my lungs out to spit out mucus filled with specs,and tiny chunks of brown, tan, gunk. Yes still every day/nite for two month now. I sneeze and sneeze and sneeze. I get head aches. Light headed. I feel like im in a buzz like haze alot, i weeze alot. Oh yes smokers flu! Best way to dicribe this. As i type this im feeling tired, have slite headache and couching but at the same it feels good to b free and its all motivation to stay so, who knew?. Also worth noting is that sometimes this symptons scares the hell out of me, whooping coach like ..

  16. Stuart McRae says:

    52 Years old. Probably smoked up to 10 a days for most of my life although quit on a number of occasions. Cut right back in December to virtually nothing and apart for the odd couple here in early January I have stopped completely. I am wheezing at night though and really notice it in doors and at night coughing up phlegm (brown and clear mix) yuk… sorry . Outdoors wheezing eases and its seem to go away. I play football for an hour once a week but after have lots of couching up phlegm for a couple of hours afterward. Is this normal does anyone know as getting a little worried?

  17. Day 3 and I have been in bed. I am menopausal too. Has anyone had this flu-like thing and had to stay in bed? I don’t have a running nose,etc. Chills,Weakness, YES! I feel like I want to check into a mental ward. Maybe I’m just having a hard time.

  18. I’m on day 6 of no cigarettes and i have a stuffy nose, sore throat and cough. I just want to feel well again! Good luck

  19. it’s been 5 weeks since my last cigarette. I have constant heartburn, still can’t sleep thru the night, BUT I can now walk up a steep hill without stopping to breath, food and other things smell better, taste bud are back. at times I still want a cigarette,but remind myself that I don’t smoke. I repeat to myself “THIS TOO SHALL PASS” ……

  20. I’ve been cutting back since December 12. Thanks to nicotine patch I’m smoke free for about a week. Coughing, anxiety and wheezy has been the worse. I am breathing deeper and better though. Ready to move down a patch size. Nervous about that.

  21. Today is day 10 of quitting for me. I tested going out for the morning and found I didn’t cut what I was doing short anymore because I didn’t get the crave. That was big for me. I too am using a patch but taking it off after the morning which is my bad time. I am on the weakest patch as of tomorrow. I was a light smoker so it has been easier than when I tried a couple years ago when I smoked more. I smelled my first cigarette in a parking lot today and it did not smell good. I’m more than a little hopeful this round though I have a longggggggg way to go. Thanks to this website for all the information it is priceless and really helps.

  22. I appreciate this website. I’m not as anxious today knowing that there are others out there feeling the same way I’m feeling.

  23. cool thoughts to all ex-smokers on this website. i had most of the symptoms but now on my 18th day of quitting(cold turkey style) had me the following…chills,bad sore throat,anxiety,loss appetite due to acid reflux..but NO Fever..i felt like im having one but the doc says my body temp is normal.those chills almost made me had mild shakes…goin strong for few more days…have anyone faced the same symptoms like i did? i stopped my cigs n my caffeine fix at the same time….felt hell…

    • I’m on day 18 and today have have come down with “smokers Flu” I feel really ill :( I cut out caffeine once and honestly I had never felt worse in my whole life so my guessing would be that teamed with non smoking would be extreme hell ! :(

      • exsmoker2 says:

        i feel you,i am on day 8 of non smoking,constant spitting of mucus from my lungs,at night i feel my cilia doing its work!what helps is water on the bedside and spitting has decreased but still i have to spit out.if anyone want to exchange experience so that we can feel relaxed,assured with a fellow exsmoker who is online of the time please feel free to email me

      • cheers ex-smoker..i’m on my 24th day and the cold seems getting better..however i’m still getting that sore throat doesn’t swell alot but doc says its alot better than last time..any of u folks had long duration of sore throats before reaching the 1 month mark? – cheers n luv ST

  24. Today is my 6th day of quitting by Cold Turnkey method without using any substitute or patches. Feeling great despite of some stomach cramps, cold and sleep disturbances problems, everything is going well.

  25. Hi all, just wanted to quickly congratulate everyone who has decided to make one of the most important decisions of your life! I too had been a smoker since I was 14 and decided to stop sucking in poison when I realised I was smoking for more than half my life span! What have I been doing to myself all those years? I’ve now been on complete cold turkey for 6 days now ( both cigs and weed) and can honestly say I wish I didn’t pick up that first cig all those years ago, currently getting a soar throat so am expecting the quitters cold any day now but just wanted to say, yes I know the cravings can be hard at times but just remember they only last for a min or so, keep up the good work people and stay strong, you can get through this’d and live a happy smoke free life

  26. I would like to congratulate all of you. Stopping is the hardest. I have smoked off and on for about 35 years. Unfortunately I am unable to tell if it is quitters flu or not. I had to stop my hormone therapy due to breast cancer. Then I stopped smoking on 1/17. It seams that this may be some yet not all. I have not had any cough until last night while I was sleeping. I know this is it for me. I need to find a new stress relief. I feel better yet I do not like the weight gain!!!

  27. Day 28 today… I’d celebrate but I’ve been struck down with a smoke free head-cold/sinus infection?? Seemingly it’s common enough once you’ve quit, but otherwise have been fine up until this point. Increased speckled sputum being coughed up has only reiterated the damage the passed few years of smoking has caused. I have returned to exercising also which seems to be speeding up the recovery process, I am finally gaining my health back. And so are you… keep up the great work, cravings will pass… and no cigarette smoked will feel as good as being able to take a good deep healthy breath.

  28. Bob McMullen says:

    Day 28 smoke free after 48 years of smoking!!!! I’ve tried quiting quite a few times, longest was 1 month(honestly) and 4 months(dishonestly), You know trying to hide it from my wife and family, but all I was doing was lying to myself, not quiting for me. This time I didn’t anyone i was quiting and I doing for me.. Right now I’m going through flu like symptoms (feeling like holy hell), didn’t know about smokers flu till I read this web site. I know I’m going to make it, cause I’m not going through this hell again! The best of luck all the quitters out there!!

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