Dr Caitlin: Thinking About Quitting Smoking?

Posted by
CH Santaland Insert 2016

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rsz_dr_caitlin_oconnorDr Caitlin O’Connor of Tralee Medical Centre, St Brendan’s Park, offers advice on quitting smoking…

Why should I quit?

The health benefits of stopping smoking become evident within a very short time period.

• As soon as you stop smoking, body will begin to rid itself of tobacco toxins.

• After just 20 minutes, your circulation will improve

• Within eight hours nicotine levels in the blood will have halved;

• Within a few weeks your sense of taste and smell will improve

• Your overall general health will improve; you will feel fitter and breathing problems will gradually disappear;

• Within a year or two of not smoking your risk of having a heart attack is reduced by half that it would have been had you continued

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After three years of not smoking your risk of having a heart attack is similar to that of a life-long non-smoker
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• After 10 years of not smoking the risk of getting lung cancer is halved. The longer you stop the lower the risk;.

• You will save money.

The sooner you decide to quit, the better but remember: it is never too late to quit smoking.

Continued below…

John Ross Jewellers

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What about withdrawal symptoms?


Withdrawal symptoms are only short-term. Common withdrawal symptoms include:
 coughing and bringing up phlegm
, dizzy/light headedness, tingling sensation (due to improved circulation) 
irritability, 
tiredness or inability to sleep well
feeling extra hungry 
lack of concentration
 craving to smoke.

How should I deal with cravings?

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Write down all the reasons for stopping

• Pick a day to stop

• Occupy yourself to avoid thinking about the craving

• Tell those around you that you are stopping so that they can give you encouragement

• Take exercise.

Don’t be put off if at first you don’t succeed. Take one day at a time
, consider joining the local stop smoking support group.

The Irish Cancer Society recommends tips to deal with cravings, known as “the four Ds”

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Delay at least three minutes and the urge will pass.

• Drink a glass of water or fruit juice.

• Distract yourself. Move away from the situation.

• Deep breathe. Breathe slowly and deeply.

Will medication help?


There are several drugs available to help you succeed to stop smoking and lessen the withdrawal symptoms. 
Nicotine replacement therapies are scientifically proven to improve many smokers’ chances of quitting successfully.

They are available in tablet form, chewing gum, nasal spray or patches and are available without prescription.

The choice of which form of nicotine replacement to take is an individual one. Most are taken for a maximum of three months, during which time the smoker is gradually weaned.

• Nicotine patches: Initially, one patch is applied every 24hrs. Side effects include nausea, dizziness, headaches, difficulty sleeping and skin irritation.

• Nicotine nasal spray: One spray is applied to each nostril as required.

• Nicotine inhaler: This looks like a cigarette. It is inhaled when the urge to smoke arises.

• Nicotine chewing gum. A piece of gum is chewed for about 30 minutes when the urge to smoke arises.

• Champix (varenicline) reduces the severity of the quitter’s craving and withdrawal symptoms.

The patient should be set a date to stop smoking. Varenicline should be started 1-2 weeks before this date. It should be used for 12 weeks in total. Nausea is common and dose titration may help overcome this.

Other common side effects are abnormal dreams, headache and insomnia.

Talk to your GP about referral to Smoking Cessation Clinics in University Hospital Kerry.

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