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. If I was to offer any advice, it’s to just quit, cold turkey. People that are cutting down to “One smoke a day” or “X puffs a day”, all you’re doing is prolonging the withdrawal process. You’re extending your misery. Until you actually quit, you aren’t helping the process by cutting down to a marginal amount of nicotine, you’re hurting it.
    You need to completely rid your body of the nicotine to get past the addiction, and that requires not imbibing it at all.

    It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be miserable, but this is the truth.
    Day 24

  2. We are 3 in a house all packing up smoking myself and hubby smoked 40 years nowaking champix and 36 days smoke free but hubby complaining of body aches body shakes head aches and dry mouth ! Me I am fine a bit snappy but I’m as is my son but he smoked 5 years and not as many a day

    • Congrats on 36 days! I’m right with you & on day 33. I also quit with Chantix. I took the mess for two months and stopped taking it a week ago. I have to say I’ve had a very easy time quitting with the medication. So much better than my cold turkey quit.(which lasted 14 months.) I felt great while I was taking Chantix but ever since I stopped taking it I’ve had horrible depression & the corners of my mouth cracked! Ouch. I guess I’m dehydrated? And the depression has been soul crushing/life ending. What in the world is up with that?! I called my Dr. I’m still alive & still not smoking and that’s important. Im finally coming out of the depression after a week, yay! It worked like a charm but I should have kept taking it forever cause the aftermath is bad. Best of luck to all three of you!

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