Secondhand Smoke and a Sore Throat

Smoking is a bad idea for both the smoker and people nearby; exposure to secondhand smoke is a common cause of chronic sore throats. Children especially should not be exposed to secondhand smoke since their lungs are in the process of developing. A sore throat from secondhand smoke is only one symptom of chronic exposure and should be considered as a warning sign for you to limit your exposure to cigarette smoke.

A young woman annoyed by cigarette smoke. Credit: Martin Novak/iStock/Getty Images

Throat and Lungs

The back of your throat is coated in mucus, which aids in swallowing and digesting food. Unfortunately, the same mucus traps smoke particles and can irritate the lining of the throat. Chronic exposure to secondhand smoke may result in an infection called viral pharyngitis. Worse yet, any infections in the lining of the throat may travel to the lungs while taking a breath. Since the separation between your esophagus and trachea is not airtight, your anatomy prohibits food and liquids from getting into your lungs, but not microscopic bacteria and viruses.

Lives Lost

Northeast Alabama Community College reports that smoking claims more lives that car accidents, drugs, murder and AIDS, combined. Secondhand smoke contains thousands of chemicals, including 150 toxins. Of the 443,000 Americans who lose their lives each year due to smoking, an estimated 50,000 people nationally die from secondhand smoke.

Surgeon General's Report

According to a landmark 2006 report released by the Office of the Surgeon General, secondhand smoke exposure is a grave health problem in America. Almost half of Americans show exposure to cigarette smoke. Throat irritation is thought of as a sentinel to problems such as high levels of toxins in the blood, irritation of lungs and nasal tissues and impaired respiratory function. Children are especially vulnerable and may suffer permanent developmental damage to their airways.

Protecting Yourself

If you have family members that smoke, you need to stay away from them while they are smoking. Do not allow them to smoke in the car or house when you are present; encourage them to smoke outside in a well-ventilated area. Protect your home from both secondhand smoke and smoke residue on walls, carpets and furniture by banning smoking at your residence. If you suffer from a persistent sore throat after coming home from your job, examine what you can do to reduce exposure there.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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