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. I’m on my 4th day cold turkey , Day 1 not so bad , day 2 a little weird , day 3 was the worst , headache and light headed with borderline panic attacks all day, 4th day much better , I find drinking coffee intensified the panic and light headed symptoms , didn’t have any coffee and rode my bike to work made a big difference , also sore throat is kicking in now ,but I’ll take that over the anxiety. Nicotine is just brutal. Good luck . Keep pushing forward.

  2. Its been 12 days that I’ve quit smoking afyer 29 yrs. Am going thru the quitters flu now. Quite bad indeed. Hope I pull thru wt this

  3. Day 2 cant sleep, up and down all night. vomiting diarrhea headache its been 21 years i smoked a pack a day or more. I want to quit because im 35 and have COPD have been told i will be on oxygen if i dont stop smoking! I have 3 kids id like to live to see their kids. Good luck to all. I have been crocheting pot holders to keep my hands busy. Having a hard time focussing.

  4. This is my 4th day not smoking. I’ve been taking chantix which has worked well for me. But I feel just awful… no energy, heavy chested, horrible cough! Definitely quitter’s flu!
    I know it’s worth it, but I’m ready to start feeling human again!

  5. I started smoking at the age of 12.
    Smoked for 31 years, average number of cigarettes processed by my lungs in access of 9,100,000 (million cigarettes). Quit cold turkey last week Friday, tomorrow it will be a week exactly to the day.
    I’m experiencing “smokers flu” big time even though I cycle, run, swim & do weight training resting x1 day per week. I am consciously counting hours and will get through this. Focusing hard on the positives of smelling nice, white teeth and good breathe. Even taking whiffs of my most expensive cologne to stay motivated. It’s 03:15 am can’t sleep, restless, feverish, tummy flu ‘ ish feeling.
    Thanks to all for sharing your experiences.

  6. Heather says:

    Today im 73 days smoke free. I had the worst quitters flu for about 15 days and still did not give in. This started about 45 days into my quitting. Now im coughing up brown tinged mucus and loving it. Each time its a reminder of my success and my body healing. Seeing is believing. About 20 days in I thought i was having panic attacks but it was just my lungs expanding more than they have in years. Good luck all.

  7. Crystal says:

    This information was very helpful. I am 11 weeks pregnant and on my third or fourth week of quiting smoking cold turkey. It has been a rough road indeed! I left work early twice for fatigue and nausea. Now I have been dealing with a terrible cold that has lasted 2 weeks and counting. The symptoms have been tourchering (sinus pressure, head aches, cough, stuff/runny nose, severe soar throat). I am completely miserable but trying everything I can to recover.

  8. I started taking Chantix for the 2nd time almost a week ago and have been smoke free for 2 days. It is FINALLY a $30 co-pay through my health insurance!!! Much less money that smoking. I have smoked on and off since I was 19 and I m 48 now. :( Going well, but I am extremely tired already which brought me here looking for reasons to be so tired. I have never been so hungry in my life. Any tips on not eating myself to death would be welcome!

  9. hi
    i really want to thank you for all the information that you’ve got in this article it’s amazing.

    i am on the 20th day of not smoking and tomorror i’m on the third stage :)

    curently I am experiencing a flu cough , should I drink medicine everytime i got flu , please tell me what to do.

    thank you so much.

  10. I quit March 22, 2015. Have smoked 40 years. Currently age 55. Have had quitters flu at least 6 times. This is 4 months of not smoking. Thought I was having a heart attack 2 nights ago while sleeping. Have doctored since January this year, including a couple of EKG’s, stress tests, chest x-rays etc. All comes out ok. I have heard the quitters flu can last for several months. I will never smoke again after going through this. So this is a reminder to myself everyday I wake up sick, makes me hate myself for smoking for so long. For people who want to quit, it is mind over matter. Do not let cigs control you. Find somebody who matters! Good luck.

  11. I have been smoking for 38 years. I have quit several times before, lasted for a year one time.
    This time is different I feel sick and tired alot. It’s been 10 days since I smoke a cigarette. I quit this time
    Cold turkey.
    Is there a difference in how you quit,cause I never had headache, flu like systems like this before when I wuit.

  12. not had acig since 23rd jan 2015 no aids went cold turkey
    i can honestly say i still crave a cig but wouldnt touch 1 again due to health which as not improved much bp still through the roof etc

  13. It is now my 9th day being nicotine free after having smoked 10-20 a day for close to 17 yrs. I went completely cold turkey, literally just woke up one day and didn’t want to smoke anymore and I still don’t. But lately (meaning the past couple days) I’ve been having some strange symptoms that I’m hoping someone can help shed some light on. I’ve been getting dizzy spells throughout the day that are kinda scary simply because I don’t know if it’s a normal symptom of nicotine withdrawal. Also, I’ve been feeling tightness in my throat that makes it difficult to swallow. And some acute stomach pains that feel like quick stabs. Has anyone else experienced these symptoms or am I just thep lucky one? On top of that, I’ve had the quitter’s flu with the sore throat, headaches, sinus pressure and ear aches. I guess I never considered that I would have to go through all this anguish by quitting. Nobody ever says anything about that. I hope I feel better soon. One thing’s for sure, after this, I will NEVER smoke another cig again I long as I live.

  14. edwin f weirich says:

    i have quit smoking now for like 6 days and i am haven alot of pain in my chest .i have quit 3 times before but this time its for good ,, i am done ,i cannt even walk up a flight of steps and i am out of breath ..i am doing it this time .. i just wished that the last time i did it i wouldnt have went back but i did how long do i have to go before i see a change in my breathing ..

  15. Today is my first day.I feel crazy but proud.U can do it man.Good Luck

    • Day 4, feel horrible but I know it will be better eventually, the stomach pain is really,super annoying and makes me grumpier than not smoking, maybe it’s a good distraction

  16. Those E cigs haven’t been around long enough, I don’t trust them, it is more chemicals you’re inhaling just different ones. You’re just switching monsters. Like drinking beer instead of vodka .

  17. Matt cook says:

    I agree Debra, I’ve tried quitting using various nicotine replacement in the past but I always go back. This time it’s cold turkey for me.

  18. I actually got really upset that a pack of cigarettes was $8. I bought them anyway.
    But that was the last pack I ever bought. (at least so far) I went the next day and bought an e-cigarette and all this fixings with a low dose of nicotine (comparable to the amount of cigarettes I smoked 3-5 a day). In 2 weeks I stepped that down to half. and by the end of a little over a month I have stopped entirely with ZERO cravings. I still drink alcohol, and don’t even have cravings then.
    While you’re not wrong, I do think that used as a cessation aid for a short period of time is less problematic than a life time of back and forth between smoking and not smoking.

  19. Hahaha… true that!!

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