The fact that smoking has negative effects on the overall wellbeing of the body is generally accepted by the public. But did you know it can also be detrimental to your ear, nose and throat health? Your ENT doctor wants you to stop smoking, and these are the reasons why.
Your Body’s Natural Security Guards
Knowing how the sinuses work to keep your body healthy is important to understanding why smoking is so damaging to the health of your ears, nose and throat. Your nose contains mucus-producing membranes that act as your respiratory system’s first line of defense. Like the lining of the lungs, your nose and sinuses use tiny hair like structures, known as cilia, to filter harmful airborne matter. Smoking causes cilia to stop functioning, leading to an increase in sinus infections.
Though cilia and mucus are your natural body guards against illness, the irritation that is caused by inhaling smoke prompts the mucus membranes in your nose to over produce. This leads to having too much of a good thing. The extra mucus builds up in your nose and throat, along with the captured pathogens. For this reason, smokers experience increased occurrences of colds and infections, and commonly experience chronic sinusitis as well as cancer.
Secondhand Smoke and ENT Health
Secondhand smoke is very harmful to everyone, especially children. Those who are exposed, even briefly, to secondhand smoke experience increased occurrences of ear infections and a longer duration of the illness. Smoke causes irritation of the Eustachian tube, essential to the proper drainage of ear fluids, leading to swelling, obstruction and pain. The built up fluid easily leads to infection. Middle ear infections are the most common cause of hearing loss in young people. Children who are around those who smoke are more likely to require the surgical insertion of tubes in their ears. Teens and young adults can also experience hearing loss from smoke inhalation — often without even realizing that they are suffering from the side effect.
Secondhand smoke is linked to an increase in asthma attacks and sinus infections. The same irritation of the mucus membranes that is developed by the smoker is also experienced by those who inhale secondhand smoke. The children of individuals who smoke inside or near areas where they are kept frequently show signs of decreased ear, nose and throat health.
When You Quit
Though the negative effects of smoking happen almost immediately, regaining your full ENT functions can take months or even years. The sooner you begin to quit, the faster you can experience regaining functions. In just two days, your sense of smell and taste will increase and, at 8 months, your cilia begin to repair. Ten years after quitting, your chances of developing throat and other kinds of cancers diminish to just half the levels of someone who smokes.
Your ENT doctor would like to send a clear message — if you smoke, the time to stop is now. There are many medications and methods to assist you on your journey to a smoke free lifestyle if you require help to quit. Good ENT health and smoking do not mix.