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How Long After Quitting Smoking Does Lung Function Return To Normal?

Smoking cessation, or quitting, is a good idea. Smoking can cause you to feel ill. It can also cause you to cough and wheeze. Smoking can raise your risk of lung cancer, emphysema, and other health problems.

The American Lung Association reports that smokers have a five-year risk of lung cancer that is 25 percent higher than the risk for nonsmokers. Smoking also causes an estimated 7,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year.

If you’re thinking about quitting, talk to your doctor about whether you should quit smoking or use a lung health product.

How long does it take for lung function to return to normal after quitting smoking?

Here’s what you need to know.

The first 24 hours after quitting smoking

The first few hours after quitting smoking may be the most challenging.

It’s normal for your lungs to be inflamed and uncomfortable. You may feel nauseated, chesty, and short of breath.

You may even need to cough a little.

Your lungs will start to heal and to get back to normal after 48 hours.

The first few days after quitting smoking

If you’ve quit smoking for a year or longer, you may have less of an impact on your lungs.

If you’ve smoked for decades, you may experience:

  • A dry cough with a tickling sensation in the chest
  • A chesty, dry cough that doesn’t ease with deep breathing
  • A cough that makes it hard to breathe
  • A cough that interferes with your sleep

The first week after quitting smoking

After a month or two, your lungs may be feeling better.

You may notice a milder cough with a tickling sensation in the chest.

You may also notice that you’re breathing better.

If you’re looking for a reason, you may also notice that your cough and chesty cough are going away.

You may still have some of the symptoms above. That may include:

  • A cough that doesn’t clear up in a day or two
  • A cough that is worse at night
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chesty cough

The first month after quitting smoking

Your lungs should be recovering after a month, but there’s still a chance they may not feel 100 percent back to normal.

If you’re feeling sick or have a cough that’s not clearing up or getting worse, talk to your doctor.

You may also need to see a doctor for a chest X-ray. Your doctor may recommend that you see a pulmonologist.

If you’ve smoked for decades, you may have already had one lung removed. This procedure is called a lung transplant.

The first year after quitting smoking

The first year after quitting smoking is the time you’ll need to pay close attention to.

If you haven’t smoked for many years, you may notice that your lung function has improved. You may also have less of an impact on your lungs.

You may also notice that you have less of a cough.

The first two years after quitting smoking

After an additional two years, your lung function should return to normal.

You may still have a cough, but you and your doctor may be more comfortable with the cough than before.

The second year after quitting smoking

At this point, it’s unlikely that your lung function will return to normal.

Your doctor may recommend a breathing test to see if your lungs are starting to heal.

The third year after quitting smoking

It’s important to keep your doctor informed about your lung health. Your doctor may recommend a CT scan of your lungs.

The fourth year after quitting smoking

After this point, it’s unlikely that your lung function will return to normal.

You may still have shortness of breath, but you’ll need to see a doctor.

The fifth year after quitting smoking

If you’ve quit smoking for more than five years, you may start to see changes in your lung function.

Your doctor may recommend a lung function test or do a pulmonary function test.

The sixth year after quitting smoking

Your lung function should improve.

The seventh year after quitting smoking

If you quit smoking for more than seven years, you may start to see changes in your lung function.

Your doctor may recommend that you see a pulmonary function test.

The eighth year after quitting smoking

Your lung function may start to improve.

The ninth year after quitting smoking

After this point, your lung function should return to normal.

The tenth year after quitting smoking

If you quit smoking for more than 10 years, you may start to see changes in your lung function.

Your doctor may also recommend that you see a pulmonary function test.

The eleventh year after quitting smoking

At this point, your lung function should be back to normal.

The twelfth year after quitting smoking

Your lung function will probably return to normal.

The thirteenth year after quitting smoking

If you quit smoking for more than 13 years, you may start to see changes in your lung function.

Your doctor will likely recommend that you see a pulmonary function test.

The fourteenth year after quitting smoking

Your lung function should return to normal.

The fifteenth year after quitting smoking

Your lung health will likely return to normal.

The sixteenth year after quitting smoking

Your lung health should return to normal.

The seventeenth year after quitting smoking

At this point, your lung health should be back to normal.

The eighteenth year after quitting smoking

At this point, your lung health should be normal.

The nineteenth year after quitting smoking

Your lung health should be back to normal.

The twentieth year after quitting smoking

Your lung health should continue to improve.

The twenty-first year after quitting smoking

Your lung damage will likely continue to improve.

The twenty-second year after quitting smoking

Your lung damage should return to normal.

Final thoughts

Smoking is bad for your lungs. It can increase your risk of developing lung cancer and other conditions.

Smoking is also linked to complications with your heart and blood vessels. These complications can cause additional health issues.

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