Now that I’ve quit smoking, why am I more congested than I was before?

By Margaret LaPlante, EX® Coach Lead

Now that you’ve quit smoking, you might expect your body to immediately feel amazing. So why are you feeling sinus pain or congestion? It was hard enough just to quit. It may not seem fair that you’re feeling worse. The reality is that it often takes some time for your body to go through its healing process.

Is sinus pain normal after quitting smoking?

After you quit smoking, your body goes through many changes as it begins to heal. Sinus pain and congestion are a very normal part of the quitting process.

In fact, sinus problems and congestion are talked about in many posts in our EX Community. One user, katieb3, posted “So I am On the 4th day of no cigarettes and I am congested in my lungs, nose and ears.... can someone please let me know how long this will last?” See how other members responded here.

Another user, raychel, posted “I have had the WORST sinus pain since I have quit smoking.” Other members told her to drink lots of water, get lots of rest, and stay committed to quitting. Read all of their helpful comments!

Why do congestion and sinus pain happen?

Your sinuses have little hair-like cells called cilia, which move back and forth. They work with mucus to prevent infection. Cigarettes are toxic to the cilia and make them not work as well. As a result, mucus builds up while you are smoking.

When you quit smoking, those cilia start to come back to life and help your body get rid of the excess mucus. Think of the discomfort as a sign your body is healing!

For most people, sinus pain and congestion start decreasing several weeks after quitting.

How can I help reduce congestion and sinus pain after quitting smoking?

  • Try using a nasal wash system. Read here to learn about one member’s experience.

  • Watch this video from Dr. Richard Hurt of the Mayo Clinic about how nicotine affects your brain and how medication can help.

  • Read tips from our EX Community about how to decrease withdrawal symptoms after quitting smoking.