Quitting smoking can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as a sore throat. This is usually a temporary issue you can manage at home.

A sore throat is a common withdrawal symptom for people who are quitting smoking. Other common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include cravings to smoke, irritability, restlessness, and increased appetite.

One reason for the sore throat may be that quitting smoking allows your airways to start healing, which can trigger a sore throat and coughing.

In this article, we’ll explain why a sore throat may occur, how to find relief, other withdrawal symptoms, and the benefits of quitting smoking.

When you quit smoking, you may experience withdrawal symptoms as your body adjusts to the lack of nicotine and begins to heal itself.

One common physical symptom people report is a sore throat. This may occur as your respiratory system starts to clean itself of the tar coating and grow new tissue.

A sore throat often happens alongside excessive coughing and chest tightness, especially if you smoked heavily before quitting.

While it may seem counterintuitive, research suggests some people start coughing after quitting cigarettes.

Tobacco smoke damages the respiratory system and prevents it from clearing mucus and foreign matter like dust particles from your lungs. Once you quit smoking, your airways start to clear mucus from the lungs again. This may cause coughing that leads to a sore throat.

Physical withdrawals, such as a sore throat, are usually the worst immediately after quitting. For many people, symptoms peak on the second or third day. They typically become less severe and usually resolve within a month.

The duration and length of withdrawal symptoms you may experience depend on your smoking history and your overall health.

Can ’smoker’s flu’ cause a sore throat?

Smoker’s flu is a group of flu-like symptoms people may experience after quitting smoking.

Common symptoms include coughing, headaches, fatigue, sneezing, and sore throat.

One study suggests these symptoms may be due to a reduction in salivary immunoglobulin A levels. More studies are needed to understand why cold symptoms may occur after quitting smoking.

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A variety of treatments can help relieve a sore throat, including home remedies, medications, and natural remedies.

Home remedies

These common home remedies may help soothe a sore throat:

  • gargle warm salt water
  • drink plenty of fluids to keep your throat moist
  • drink comforting warm beverages like broth, chicken soup, or tea with honey
  • use an air humidifier to remove dry air that could irritate your throat
  • relax for several minutes in a steamed bathroom
  • get plenty of sleep and rest your voice
  • avoid irritants like smoke, chemical fumes from cleaning products, or allergens such as pollen or pet dander

If possible, stay home and get extra rest to help your body heal.

Medication

Traditional over-the-counter (OTC) medications for sore throat include:

  • acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • throat lozenges
  • sprays that numb the throat
  • powders that you combine with warm water

Speak with your doctor about which OTC medications may be right for you.

Natural remedies

Many people report that natural remedies can help relieve a sore throat, though more research is needed on their effectiveness.

Common natural remedies include:

  • chamomile
  • peppermint
  • fenugreek
  • licorice root
  • marshmallow root
  • garlic
  • slippery elm

You can find many of these herbs as an ingredient in herbal teas, such as chamomile or peppermint tea.

Many of these ingredients are also available as a tincture, supplement, or lozenge.

For example, licorice root is available as a lozenge. Some research suggests it may help reduce the severity of sore throats after surgery. More high quality evidence is needed, however.

It’s important to understand that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor herbs or supplements for quality or safety. Always look for high quality products that follow good manufacturing practices and clearly list all ingredients.

Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns about the safety of natural remedies.

Aside from a sore throat, nicotine withdrawal can cause a range of physical and cognitive symptoms.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:

  • urges or cravings to smoke
  • irritability or anger
  • restlessness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty sleeping
  • increased appetite
  • weight gain
  • anxiety
  • depression

Quitting smoking affects everyone differently, but most people experience some of these symptoms.

The symptoms you may have depend on how much and how long you have smoked and your overall health history.

Many people who quit smoking report having symptoms similar to a cold, such as coughing, sneezing, fatigue, and a sore throat. While not an official diagnosis, this is commonly referred to as ‘smoker’s flu.’

Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can be uncomfortable, but there are many effective ways to manage them. Here are a few tips that may help you cope:

Quitting smoking has many benefits for your health, both in the short-term and long-term.

Short-term health benefits include:

Long-term health benefits include:

  • reduced risk of heart attack, coronary heart disease, and stroke
  • reduced risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx, lung, bladder, stomach, esophagus, and kidney
  • reduced risk of diabetes
  • improved functioning of the blood vessels, heart, and lungs
  • living longer by as much as 10 years

Immediately after quitting, you may also notice other benefits:

  • Food starts to taste better.
  • Your sense of smell goes back to normal.
  • Your teeth and fingernails stop yellowing.
  • You save money on tobacco products.

Quitting smoking has many health benefits, but withdrawal symptoms can be a challenge. While irritability and cravings are common, some people experience physical symptoms like a sore throat.

You can usually manage a sore throat with home remedies or OTC medication. Talk with your doctor about other treatment options if your sore throat becomes severe or continues for longer than a week.