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.


 

Comments

  1. Didn’t start on ciggy’s started on gunga after a car accident on 1/1/84 i was fit and healthy but after app 28 years of smoking i am now fitted with a pacemaker after heart attack 3 years ago stopped for 3 or 4 months back then but got stoned felt good and off i went.Stopped the gunga in September and started to cut down ciggy’s stopped on 1st December and last week or so have been feeling like shit totally but after reading Quitters Comments i realise that as strange as it seems it is part of the HEALING PROCESS and i also realise that lighting up would be giving up and that’s not an option,if i keep going EVENTUALLY this crappy throat this lethargy i am feeling and all these other little bibs’n’bobs that are trying to trip me up will disappear and i should start to feel like a NON SMOKER…..

  2. So it’s been a week. Cold turkey tobacco and weed. This quitters flu is still going. In anti biotics now. Hope it gets easier!

  3. hi i only smoked ciggys in joints and have been for 14 years about 3 a day gave up 4 days ago when all of a sunnen my heart starts beating really fast called a amblance they said i had tacycardic they took bloods xrays couldt find anything wrong so it sceared me so much that im to afraid to smoke anymore but today have been expierience cold and flu like syptoms is this normal? ?? Im 29 female

  4. I’m into my second week of not smoking. I started with a severe sore throat 4 days after my last cigarette and I’m now feeling tragic with full on flu symptoms. As much as I’m feeling sorry for myself right now with a head that feels like it will explode at any minute and feeling like an elephant is sat on my chest I know that my body is working so hard repairing itself from the damage I have done to it over the years. This coupled with cravings is bound to make us feel lethargic, emotional and generally out of sorts but honestly nothing bad is happening quite the opposite really. Time is a great healer, don’t give up just give it a chance.

  5. Christopher says:

    I am now at hour 51, and this sucks. But the flu symptoms are so heavy that I don’t even think about cigarettes. Took a long time to poison myself, i think I can handle a couple weeks of misery. Does anyone else remember vomiting while trying to quit?

    • Hi Christopher, I don’t recall vomiting myself. Though I am sure some folk do. I would consider talking to your doctor and seeing if he/she can help. Hang in there!

    • I never vomited but got nauseous the first couple of weeks. I’m on week 5 now. I get short of breath now for some reason and was never before. That started the last few days. I’ve been using eucalyptus cough drops to help.

  6. Wow! These flu like symptoms are harsh. I look like the guy on the old Nyquil commercial. Sneezing, coughing, puffy eyes and my nose is gushing! Day 7……….Let me off this monster! Cigs are B A D!

  7. Its been 5 day now that I quit Smoking and going through this Quitters Flu phase. Everytime, while coughing, I spit yellowish phelgm. Its irritating as well as disgusting, however this time I have made up my mind for not touching Cigarette any more… FOR BETTER LIFE

  8. I quit smoking cigs and weed and drinking 3 weeks and 3 days ago after going to the er for lung damage from a bad batch of hash oil which messed my lungs up!!! the doctor says im lucky to be alive and the realization that i have a baby on the way and god putting me in check and working out like i go to work everyday was enough for me to stop, it has been hard but i havent gave in to the temptation of smoking.. quit cold turkey and me beeing a 5 year recovering addict to H can quit smoking i know all thoes other smokers can too… Keep going its worth your health in the end and not spending all that money for tobbacco companys products killing us… i rather buy a gun and a single bullet and do that way instead of spending thousands of dollars and the pain at the end of death. My grandpa died from lung cancer and i saw the pain he had to endure.. thats not for me.. KEEP your heads up and keep it up with not smoking!!

  9. I have been a heavy smoker for 10 years nd smoked weed aswell haven’t have a j or a cig fa 5 weeks now nd it’s been very hard I’ve had no tablets or patches jst done it on will power cos I have a lil girl t think about only thing that’s bothering me is I have a tight chest not really any pain jst feels dodgy I’ve gave it till tmoz t go see the doctors because it’s been like this fa about 5 or 6 days now

  10. Hello all I quit smoke jan.25 2014 after 20 years pack a day I have a weird feeling my throat since quit ( its not pain ) I’ve been to doc and had xrays blood work and all they have to say is allergies what do you people think

    • Hi Danny,

      I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that the weird feeling in the throat is the delicate tissue healing from the assault of smoking….I am 4 weeks quit today, and I have a strange sensation in my throat and in my ears. (It probably has something to do with high pollen counts and drainage from sinuses). I also feel like I make more saliva than before. I’ve actually drooled a few times. I think quitters all experience their own unique response to quitting the nicotine addiction….some seem to sail through it, others feel like they’re on death’s door and everything in between. I think you should feel good that your blood work and xrays have been clear. Keep up whatever it takes to stay healthy and away from the nicotine (I’ve begun to think of cigarettes as nicotine sticks instead of “cigs”). But, I do think the strange feeling in the throat is quite normal….If you’ve smoked for a long time, your body doesn’t really know what it is supposed to feel like without nicotine. Best wishes to us both!

      • ROSA REYES MALLA says:

        I quit 25 days ago for the second time, I have been going to the hospital and doctor’s office feeling miserable, with flu like symptoms and my throat feels like sand paper, I am not kidding you! I have taken all the medication there is in the book and I have decided to be patient and go through the healing process, one thing I know is that I will never go back to smoking and this is cold turkey quits, no help, no crutches but feel CONGESTED since then!

  11. On day 3, so sick with the flu I can’t even move. But reading all these comments have been keeping me going, it’s good hearing from people who are going through the same. It’s totally worth being sick for the day, by Monday of not smoking I’ll have saved as much as I would have gotten paid for the day. I live in canada, last pack of smokes I bought was over $16!

  12. Sgtkeebler says:

    This smokers flu reminds me of quitting heroin. After you quit heroin you get extremely sick, usually bed ridden for 2 weeks with diarrhea, you can’t stop kicking your legs all night and day, so you extremely tired but ambient, or any sleeping meds will not knock you out!!! and you have the flu like 10x’s worse. I’m quitting smoking cigs, but after going through heroin withdrawal cigarette flu is a piece of cake. I would not wish heroin withdrawal on my worst enemies. I see people complaining how bad cig withdrawal is but try withdrawing off Heroin and you will wish you were withdrawing off cigs instead. lol just my 2 cents. trying to just say cig flu is really nothing

  13. Danny et al,
    I quit two months ago (for the 5th or 6th time) and I have a nagging post-nasal drip again. I got a script from my doc for a nasal solution which takes a few days or longer to work. The drip does go away finally. STAY OFF THE BUTTS folks!

  14. omg, THANK YOU! For everyone who has posted exactly what I am going through! Its been three full days without a smoke and getting over a severe sinus and double ear infection BUT I AM DONE smoking….cant take it anymore, please tell me the audible wheeze in my chest will go away, its driving me crazy! Keep up the good work all!

  15. It’s almost 48 hours since I had a cigarette. I’ve never felt so wired… About six hours ago I started to have pains in my chest and the back of my throat. At times the pain is a tight feeling. The pain also makes me nauseous and it’s not a really sharp pain but a dull one. I’m hopefully at the height of feeling so irritated. I’ve been smoking since I was sixteen- five years ago now. I know that a fortnight, or hell, even a few months of this I can handle. I’d rather die peacefully in seventy years time in my bed, than in ten years, hooked up to a breathing machine and fighting for every excruciating breath. Yeah, I can do this.

  16. after 37 years i have 88 days today i started soon as i learned how to strike a match i said something i never said before someone asked me for a cig and i said no i dont smoke no more i quit what a strange experience that was anyway this fresh air is making me dizzy on occasion i hope that changes once in a while i cant breathe and wheez a bit i had the sore throat and the double ear ache im hoping i get better

  17. Hi My name is Mary I did not get sick in order to stop said I am stopping used an e- cig did not like it,too costly first of all,then I went to a vape shop was OK for a bit but kept me coughing and still coughing,when I quit I would vomit green looking saliva now it is clear when I go to coughing hard that’s when i spit up whitish saliva but I have gain 20 pounds but I can breath so I keep cough drops or cough medicine in my purse smoke free since Oct,23,2013 not one cig,or vape shop ,,,,whoo hoooo

  18. Seven weeks it has been after 28 years feel great still have the words in my head -Just do it- Last 3 weeks nose will not stop running and sneezing which brought me to this site and answers some questions
    Booked in to the docs in the morning so will follow up and will never have even a puff again

  19. I’ve been in the quitting process for some time now by quitting but every now and then relapsing for short periods before quitting again. Anyhow, I’ve been off them for good for about 2 months now, it seems like every 20 minutes I must clear my throat of small nuggets of mucus. they started out being kind of light green/brown but now they are just whitish or clear. It seems that I also get discomfort in the chest area, it feels as if there is air or something trapped inside it. Is this sensation normal while going through the ‘quitters flu’ ? Many thanks.

  20. Monday was my three month point. I had been a smoker for about 40 years.
    While I rarely have cravings now, I still feel relatively ill. Muscle pains, congestion, and that “throat thing” feels like something caught in there. Probably the most annoying thing is that after about 2 days of quitting, I have lost my sense of smell, and thus my food tastes rather plain. Cooking is my hobby and I miss the aroma as I cook. Sometimes, without notice, sense of smell is back, then leaves. Strange thing is that when I cook now, I take a taste, blow my nose. That’s the only way I can smell or taste. I loss count how many times I have “quit” but this time it seems different. I don’t Want to smoke any more. Does this sound similar to anyone?

    • Heather says:

      Sounds like you may have nasal polyps. I’ve had these several times, they are basically formed when your body is putting out nasal congestion faster than the membranes can excrete it so small sacks form in your nasal passages which block the air from getting to your olfactory which is where you smell things. The fact that you can taste something and then blow your nose and smell it suggest that the aroma is getting to your olfactory from the back side of your nasal passage rather than the front. Getting a cortisone shot or taking prednisone will usually make them subside. Sometimes surgery is necessary. I’d strongly suggest seeing a Ear, Nose and Throat doctor to see if this is the cause of your smell loss. Good luck to you!

    • ROSA REYES MALLA says:

      that is me, just like you are explaining it, sometimes I smell and taste and some days I have no taste no smell, and that funny feeling in the throat, this has been the worst time, I tried to quit before but this one, the worst, but not going back

  21. Tardis_Paronus says:

    I just quit smoking over this past Easter weekend, I was also already sick, so the choice was easy. I broke
    down and smoked a few two weeks ago, since that, none. I have been
    coughing up the usual brown crap and have many of the other symptoms described by everyone here. Today I started coughing up blood, bright red, deep red, even when I blow my nose.
    A few people suggested its worse for me because I smoked clove cigarettes for years.
    Has anyone else experienced this?

  22. colleen says:

    I am on day 64 of choosing not to smoke. I have been smoking for 30 years averaging 60 a day. my lungs feel so much clearer now mand being asmatic I have experienced some scary moments in the past. However I am struggling to focus and concentrate and tend to be drinking more alcohol than before. Is anyone else experiencing this. I dont want to smoke again, but would like to be able to be focused.

  23. Actual Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms

    These are temporary and aren’t much fun. You might get none, some, or all and more!

    Your mind will play tricks on you and try to dominate your thoughts. Mood swings, loneliness, lack of concentration, emptiness, agitation, stress, anger, self-pity, and just general crankiness might happen. These psychological symptoms are explained more in Side Effects of Quitting Smoking.
    Headaches or a general heaviness. This is a classic smoking withdrawal symptom, often caused by your sinuses clearing out.
    Shaking, sweating or feeling very cold.
    Coughing, hacking, runny nose, wheezing and shortness of breath. Seems strange to get these when you’ve quit, but your body is ridding itself of years of tar and built-up residues. In other words, at last taking the opportunity of having a good clean-out.
    Insommnia is common. Well, it is stressful to quit and break your normal patterns. As with all stress — good or bad, sleep challenges can surface.
    Sour stomach or stomach pains. Your digestion might get out of whack for a little while.
    Pains, pains, pains. Some smokers get stomach cramps, sore gums, pains in chest… pains anywhere. Your mind and body are going through a healing crisis and they are going to remind you of what they are missing.
    Tiredness and a general zapped feeling.

  24. triumph says:

    Day three and a really sore throat. Day four aching back, dizzy and hot and cold just like the flu. Also sore eyes. I only smoked 5 a day for three years. Hang in there guys. This pain must be nothing like dying from cancer.

  25. christine says:

    I have been on a program for the last six months..finally stopped 20 days ago. The past five have been rough… this chat has helped me realized I have the flu like symptoms related to stopping.. Thanks for your help all!!! Never smoking again!!!

  26. I quit just over 50 days ago. Feeling a bit better. Hard to breathe at night …but exercise helps.

  27. Thanks for relating all the experiences. I have not had a cigarette in 10 days after 25 years of a 1/2 pack a day habit. Finally caught up to me, but this time it feels completely different. It’s like my body just said “enough”. No cravings, just quit cold turkey. But I have some really weird symptoms: chills, joint soreness, hot flashes, loss of appetite….. Just like the flu. This sucks but since I am only in for 10 days I will stick with it.

  28. I quit real cigs 2 weeks ago and I feel good right now. I started vaping instead and it seems to be doing it’s job. Although it is nothing like smoking for real of course. I seem to be going through the symptoms of a cold right now. Sore throat just came on me yesterday and I had a terrible nights sleep (though I seem to be waking a lot during the night recently anyway) I had muscle aches last week and weird dreams too. I know that these symptoms may last a good long while, so I won’t give in. The only thing I haven’t suffered from is headaches, and I’m a migraine sufferer! Hang in there everyone!

  29. Sidiki kouyate says:

    I thanks every one for chairing your experiece from sig withrouwal. Am in my second years since I stop smoking. I have undergone most of those symtoms. My only courage was none of this symtoms dont last for more than 72hours.And more am advancing in time more the pains are geting less. LETS DO IT.

  30. Hi! I was curious….I have been smoking for 7 years now. I only smoke about 6 cigarettes a day, so I decided to buy an e-cig to help me stop quitting. I have a TERRIBLE cough that has started since I started using the e cig and has lasted about a week. For the most part it is a dry cough that keeps me up at night but sometimes it’s flem but not too much. It is worse in the morning and at night. What has caused this? Any suggestions? Thanks!
    M

  31. ha ha ha…it’s 8th day.. I had vomiting episodes for 5-6 times in evening after having stupid junk food..got throat sore from next day..tried some home remedy for next two days n finally ended up to ENT doc for strep throat…he diagnosed me for tonsillolaryngititis and gave antibiotics…in all this process it’s almost 8 days I didn’t smoked…my sore throat got normal which caused from bacteria bt got headaches , chest congestion and throat congestion…irritated … feeling very depressed..anxiety n restlessness ….I felt something very serious happened to me…my blood reports n ECG r normal…bt don’t know y I just got this article n ur comments…..ha ha ha …..it means m ok…..I m getting smoking quitting symptoms…….guys I got my breath back oohhh….it’s the body who z recovering from nicotine…thank u guys…

  32. Well done to all of the quitters! day 5 for me and have the sorest throat it feels like cancer (not that I know what cancer really feels like) I’m on the patches so am still being fed nicotine. So can you get quitters flu on patches or should I go to the Doc?

  33. David Calabro says:

    Thanks everyone 55 days in now and have been experiencing all these symptoms that your all talking about thought I was going mad or dying , bloody doctors no one helps or tells you these things lucky for sites like this, thanks all good luck stay with it, 35 plus years my body is paying me back but it will be worth it it the long run

    • Hi everyone. 1 month smoke free after 30yrs of smoking im 46yr male. When i first quit. I ended up in hospital twice thinking i was having heart attack. Blood work EKG etc all normal. Second week I ended up getting this weird short of breath feeling and also felt very tired and dizzy. Plus I look like shit. Third week constipation hit was still short of breath. I had insomnia and if i walked any place id get a very weird breathing feeling . I feel very weak and tired but cant fn sleep. Now 4th week I feel a little better not as tired but still off schedule big time. I guess it can take up to 3months to feel 100 percent for some . Anyway i hope this helps some people that exp any of what i had to know its normal. I forgot to mention my pulse rate also dropped from mid 80s to the 60s now in the first week. GOOD LUCK HANG IN THERE!!!

  34. 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 .

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. Hahaha… true that!!

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