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Why Does Smoking Make You Cough?

It's no secret that smoking anything can be detrimental to your respiratory health. Smoking or vaping weed in all its forms is so satisfying and convenient that many find it difficult to make the switch. If you continue to smoke and you're constantly battling with your own coughing fits, have you ever wondered about the causes & effects?
October 14, 2022
Est. Reading: 6 minutes
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Think about the last time you took a big pull from a friend’s expertly rolled blunt… Did you hold it all in and feel the head rush? Or did your lungs explode with a cough that woke the neighbors? Most of us get hit with the wheezes, the hacking coughs or dry mouth & throat after smoking many of our favorite buds. Coughing is just a part of smoking, something you can’t really minimize or manage. When you feel that itchiness or scratchiness forming in the back of your mouth/throat, you have to commit to the cough and force your airways open, right?

Coughing is a symptom of smoking, to be sure, but it doesn’t have to last long enough to become a coughing fit. Have you ever wondered why does smoking making you cough? Why do you always start coughing after smoking or even coughing while you’re smoking? Why does coughing make you feel higher? How do you even get rid of smoker’s cough?

These are the kinds of questions that can lead you down the path towards controlling your smoker’s cough by taking a few simple steps/precautions. Let’s find out what causes all that barking, coughing and spitting whenever you light up some dope.

Why Does Smoking Make You Cough?

First off, let’s get one very important, immutable point out of the way: smoking is not good for you. Inhaling anything for the purposes of using your respiratory system as the mechanism for absorbing psychedelic or psychotropic substances isn’t the most efficient way to do things. Our lungs are meant to act as engines driving the intake of oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide. Our respiratory system has a set of filters and mechanisms for only taking in the good while getting rid of the bad.

All of this suggests that maybe smoking weed isn’t the optimal way to benefit from cannabinoids and terpenes. Sure, if you have a medical need for cannabis you can certainly feel less pain, sleep better, quell your nausea or relax your anxiety by toking up some buds. Nevertheless, you have to keep in mind that smoking anything can have short- and long-term negative effects on your health.

With this caveat out of the way, have you ever wondered why does smoking make you cough? How about why does coughing seem to make you higher? How do you even get rid of a smoker’s cough without quitting smoking? Before we detail some steps you can take to minimize the severity/frequency of your smoker’s cough, let’s explore the physiological causes & effects of smoking and coughing.

Simply put, coughing is your body’s response to infection or contamination in your mouth, throat, nose and lungs. A cough is your body’s attempt to clear your airways of particulates, bacteria or other potentially harmful materials. Coughing while smoking is common because as we inhale smoke and plant particles from weed our lungs try to expel these agents from your respiratory system. If coughing after smoking persists well past the last time you smoked weed then this could be a worrying sign of lung illness or injury.

You might know someone - or be this person yourself - who seems to never be bothered by a big toke or long-held inhale. Some people’s lung capacities are just better than others, same as some people can jump higher while others are capable of existing without much sleep. We all have our physiological differences, and lung functionality is no exception. So, while it might seem like some people are able to handle their smoke/vape better than others, it doesn’t mean that their lungs are impervious to the risks of smoking.

It’s important to listen to your body whenever it’s trying to tell you something. Frequently coughing while smoking or uncontrollable coughing after smoking isn’t something you should normalize. If this occurs, it might be time to switch from joints, bongs or vapes and eat some edibles or take some cannabis oils. There are so many ways to experience the highs and chill lows of cannabis, so you can puff-puff-pass on smoking for a while if your lungs need a break.

We’ll talk about some natural ways how to get rid of smoker’s cough in a later section, but first let’s talk about another way in which smoking and coughing influence your mind & body: why does coughing make you higher?!

Why Does Coughing Make You Higher?

Have you ever taken a particularly impressive hit and tried to hold it in, only to burst into a coughing fit that has you bent over clutching your knees? After coughing while smoking like this, you might suddenly feel that rush of brain-buzz or a body high. This is very common amongst stoners, and it’s led many a smoker to ask “why does coughing make you higher?”. The answer might make you start hacking like coughing after smoking a fat blunt: it doesn’t make you higher, it’s all in your head (or your lungs).

Remember what we discussed in the previous ‘why does smoking make you cough’ section? Coughing while smoking or coughing after smoking is your body’s natural reaction to foreign particles/bacteria entering your airways. Holding in smoke longer to try and absorb more THC or other cannabinoids doesn’t actually help to get you higher, quicker. The same goes for coughing - it doesn’t mean that the cannabinoids have penetrated into your lungs or been absorbed.

This common misconception can likely be explained by how people feel immediately after a coughing fit. What happens when you cough? You stiffen up, muscles clench, your lungs force air and particles out of your body, your eyes close and start to water, your face flushes and your blood gets pumping faster. All of these symptoms of coughing can be summarized by increased blood flow and a subsequent reduction in oxygen.

Your brain needs oxygen to function properly, so it’s pretty simple to surmise that coughing fits - especially frequent bouts of barking, hacking coughs - can deprive your brain and body of oxygen for short bursts of time. These can sometimes be enough to make you feel a little woozy - if not from the lack of oxygen, then the clenched muscles, watering-eyes and increased blood pressure can lend themselves to making you feel “higher”.

Now we know the answers to ‘why does smoking make you cough’ and that coughing doesn’t in fact make you higher, it just tricks you into feeling that way. For the last section on smoking weed and coughing let’s go over a few things you can to learn how to get rid of your smoker’s cough.

How Do You Get Rid of Smoker’s Cough?

Coughing while smoking or after smoking is almost unavoidable, but there are steps you can take to minimize the frequency & severity of your smoker’s cough. If you’re always hacking up a lung but you don’t want to switch to other types of non-inhalable cannabis products, then some of these natural remedies and DIY therapies can help to you get rid of smoker’s cough:

Stay Hydrated
Drinking lots of water is essential to keeping your body lubricated, including your sinuses and lungs. Keeping hydrated can help to flush your airways of unwanted particulates on top of soothing any irritated areas from coughing fits.

Soothing Tea
There are a lot of herbal teas that work great for sore or itchy throats and can relax inflamed airways. Peppermint, lemon, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, marshmallow root and many others have been relied on for centuries to ease coughing and soothe sore/irritated sinuses.

Perfect Your Inhale/Exhale
Sometimes just changing up the ways you breathe in, breathing out your dope smoke is enough to avoid those pesky coughing fits. A smooth, low-in-the-mouth drag on a joint, held for a couple seconds and slowly exhaled through the nose is just one example of a way to suppress coughing.

Go Au Naturale
Sticking to organic buds or more naturally-inclined cannabis products can save you from those nasty chemicals and additives that some weed is polluted with. None of these kinds of processing agents or chemical residues are helping with your smoker’s cough, so the more you can avoid them the better.

Smoke Less, Ingest More
Again, we know a lot of you stoners prefer smoking because it’s just so satisfying, so convenient and so damn fun to do in groups. That being said, taking smoke-breaks is the absolute best way to clamp down on your smoker’s cough. Try mixing in some edibles, oils, topicals and other ingestible extracts or concentrates instead of always relying on your lungs to take in your cannabinoids - your respiratory system will thank you for it.

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