How much does smoking affect my allergies?

Dr. Alan M. Young, MD
Family Practitioner

Cigarette smoking triggers allergies for a lot of people, so smoking is going to worsen those. Smoking will also make the lining of the nasal passages and the mouth more sensitive, and more likely to trigger allergy symptoms.

Smoke has not been proven an allergen, but it is certainly an irritant, especially to people who are suffering from asthma or from allergic rhinitis.

Cigarette smoke, both from smoking and from passive smoking, is known to increase the risk of allergic rhinitis and asthma. Children are especially vulnerable.

Strictly speaking, cigarette smoke cannot be considered an allergen—something that triggers an allergic reaction by your immune system. But coming into contact with cigarette smoke can cause nasal and respiratory symptoms that mimic an allergic reaction. For instance, you may have difficulty breathing, have watery eyes, and cough and sneeze. Smoking can also make allergies worse and cause existing allergies to flare up by irritating the nasal passages and respiratory tract.

Whether you smoke or are often exposed to someone else’s smoking, you should know that cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals—hundreds of which are toxic, and 70 that cause cancer.

Anything in the nasal passage is where allergies typically are the most affected, so if you have injured or damaged the nasal passage that affects allergies. It is very important for people with allergies not to smoke because it only makes symptoms worse.

Dr. Joseph I. Miller, MD
Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Smoking affects the sinuses which can make allergies worse including all the symptoms of congestion, runny nose, the triggers to sneeze all worse.

It directly impedes your immune system so it might lessen allergies. The problem is, it affects your lungs, making breathing tougher so it seems like your allergies are worse.

Smoking acts as an irritant to the nasal passages, which can lead to sneezing or a runny nose, medically described as allergic rhinitis. Nicotine in cigarettes causes constriction of blood vessels, including those in the eyes, which can lead to red, itchy eyes.

There is a connection between second-hand smoke and allergies, and research shows that smoking may worsen people's allergy symptoms. Children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are at increased risk of asthma (up to 26,000 new cases per year), sinus infection, bronchitis, and pneumonia. These children are more likely to cough, wheeze, have excess phlegm, and contract ear infections.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

When you're sneezing with the approximate force of a jackhammer, you think nothing could make your allergies worse, but guess what? Smoking does just that.

Here's how smoking worsens allergy symptoms: When you smoke, the thousands of chemicals in the smoke can irritate your lungs, your eyes, your nose and your throat. If you've already got allergies, you could be more sensitive than other people to cigarette smoke, so this irritation leads to symptoms such as watery eyes, coughing or wheezing, a stuffy nose, hoarseness, or even shortness of breath.

So if you're already prone to allergies, quit smoking. Ask your doctor about smoking cessation options.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.