When it comes to your airways, smoking affects more than just your lungs. It’s an activity that can weaken your immune system and cause throat irritation, factors that may promote respiratory infections like strep throat.
Strep throat is a contagious infection caused by group A streptococcus bacteria, also known as Streptococcus pyogenes. It’s a common cause of acute (short-term) sore throat, accounting for up to
If you smoke or are around secondhand smoke, you may have a higher chance of developing strep throat and other respiratory infections.
Regular exposure to smoke can weaken your immune system, irritate your respiratory tract, and reduce other natural defenses, like cilia function.
According to a
The infection risk to your throat is not limited to traditional cigarettes.
The link between smoking and respiratory infections is complex.
It has to do with how smoking affects your immune responses, your social behaviors during smoking, and the changes smoking causes to your body’s tissues and functions.
Weakened immune system
Smoking weakens your body’s immune system, the natural defense you have against invading pathogens like viruses and bacteria.
It does this by
Having a weakened immune system means that you’re more likely to develop strep throat if you’re exposed to the bacteria, and symptoms may last longer because your body can’t efficiently combat it.
Pro-infection throat environment
Additionally, smoking may increase your chances of contracting group A streptococcus because it creates a pro-infectious environment in the throat.
Smoke is an irritant. According to the
These substances can directly damage the epithelial barrier in your throat. Over time, this damage
All of these effects can increase the chances of an infection.
Diminished cough intensity limits the ability of your cough to clear unwanted substances from your airways, and too much mucus can end up trapping bacteria and viruses in the throat.
If cilia become paralyzed, particles and infectious agents are free to travel through your respiratory system.
Increased opportunity for infection
Sharing cigarettes is an often overlooked factor in how smoking may increase the chances of upper respiratory infections.
According to a
Sharing cigarettes, vapes, or e-cigarettes can put you in direct contact with infected respiratory droplets if someone has strep throat.
It can also improve your overall lung function, slow the progression of chronic lung conditions, and help manage existing respiratory symptoms like coughing and wheezing.
If you’re ready to change your relationship with smoking, help is available any time by contacting the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357. A representative can speak with you confidentially and direct you to resources in your local area.
You can also connect with smoking cessation experts by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or texting QUITNOW to 333888.
Smoking can increase your chances of developing strep throat and other respiratory infections.
Along with weakening your immune system, smoking directly affects the tissues of the throat, causing irritation that disrupts typical function and the ability to clear viruses and bacteria.
If you notice frequent infections or that your symptoms last longer when you get sick, it could be related to the use of cigarettes, vapes, e-cigarettes, or exposure to tobacco smoke.
Smoking cessation can reduce your risk for respiratory infections and improve your overall lung function.