Common complaints while quitting smoking

Symptom Possible Cause Suggested Coping Methods
Craving for a Cigarette Withdrawal from nicotine, a strongly addictive drug. Wait out the urge. Urges last only a few minutes. Exercise; go for a walk around the block. Practice the four D’s – Distract yourself, Deep breathing, Drink water, and Do something else.
Irritability Body’s craving for nicotine. Brisk walks, hot baths & showers, relaxation techniques.
Fatigue Nicotine is a stimulant. Take naps; do not push yourself.
Insomnia Nicotine affects brain wave function, influences sleep patterns; dreams about smoking are common. Avoid caffeine after 6PM. Use relaxation techniques.
Cough,Dry Throat, Nasal Drip Body getting rid of mucous which has blocked airways and restricted breathing. Drink plenty of fluids; drink cold water, fruit juice, tea; use cough drops, gum or hard candy.
Dizziness Body is getting extra oxygen. Take extra caution; change positions slowly.
Lack of Concentration Body needs time to adjust to not having constant stimulation from nicotine. Plan workload accordingly; avoid additional stress during first few weeks.
Tightness in Chest Probably due to tension created by the body’s need for nicotine; may also be caused by sore muscles from coughing. Use relaxation techniques, especially deep breathing exercises.
Hunger Craving for cigarette can be confused with hunger pangs; Oral craving – desire for something in the mouth. Drink water or low-calorie liquids; be prepared with low-calorie snacks.
Constipation, Gas, Stomach Pain Intestinal movement decreases for a brief period. Drink plenty of fluids; add roughage to diet (i.e. fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals).
Headaches Brain is experiencing withdrawal symptoms due to lack of nicotine based on prior conditioning. Take a warm bath or shower; do deep breathing exercises; use a cold compress.

Adapted from Cummings et al.Addictive Behaviors Vol. 10:373-381