If a person’s throat feels sore or “weird” after quitting smoking, it is usually one of the symptoms that stem from the sudden absence of nicotine in a person’s body.

Because the nicotine in cigarette smoke affects many parts of the body, stopping smoking can cause temporary discomfort that presents in various ways, including a weird-feeling or sore throat.

Other cold symptoms, such as coughing and sneezing, may sometimes accompany throat symptoms. Nicotine withdrawal may also produce emotional effects, such as anxiety, and physical effects, such as nausea.

Although withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that since 2018, over 61% of adults who have ever smoked cigarettes have now quit.

This article discusses why a person’s throat may feel weird after quitting smoking and other nicotine withdrawal symptoms. It also examines the treatment and healing time for throat symptoms, ways of quitting, and benefits to expect.

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Nicotine, the main ingredient in cigarette smoke, affects many parts of the body. When a person quits smoking, they cut off their source of nicotine, so their body needs time to get used to not having it. This time of adjustment, called nicotine withdrawal, can have wide-ranging effects, including a weird-feeling or sore throat and other cold or flu symptoms.

Nicotine is an addictive chemical that affects neurotransmitters in the brain, altering the activity of chemicals such as:

  • dopamine
  • serotonin
  • acetylcholine
  • norepinephrine

These chemicals affect mood, memory, and feelings of pleasure. When a person quits smoking, their body has to adjust to the changes without nicotine, including changes that affect it physically and mentally.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR) discusses the primary symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, including a sore throat and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Symptoms can manifest 72 hours after quitting and are usually the most severe during this time. “Smoker’s flu” is a common name for the effects someone may experience when quitting smoking. However, stopping smoking does not cause the flu.

Why is smoking bad for you?

Aside from a weird throat, other common nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • nicotine cravings
  • weight gain
  • difficulty concentrating
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • cramping, nausea, and vomiting
  • sweating
  • anxiety
  • tingling sensation in hands and feet

Read more about nicotine.

Sometimes, other cold and flu symptoms accompany a weird throat. When this happens, it is known as smoker’s flu. It is a colloquial term, not a medical diagnosis, and a person should not mistake it for the actual flu. Evidence indicates that some people may experience this up to 2 weeks after quitting.


In addition to a sore or weird throat, symptoms of smoker’s flu may include:

Medications are likely unnecessary since the throat symptoms generally do not relate to infections. The CDC provides the below tips for treating a weird throat at home that is due to any cause:

  • Gargle with salt water.
  • Drink warm beverages.
  • Use a humidifier or cool mist vaporizer.

Additionally, because a weird-feeling throat is one of the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, practices that experts recommend for managing this period may also help. One of these involves drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Read more about treating sore throats.

The benefits of quitting smoking affect many aspects of health, including:

  • Heart: While the accumulation of fatty plaque in the arteries that are already present does not disappear, additional accumulation slows. The blood also thins, and the risk of blood clots, heart attacks, and heart disease decreases.
  • Lungs: Cilia, the hair-like projections that move debris out of airways, regain function, which increases the ability to fight infections. Shortness of breath also decreases. Although lung damage does not reverse, quitting smoking helps prevent further harmful effects.
  • DNA: DNA is the hereditary material in every cell. New DNA damage is less likely, which helps lower the risk of cancer.
  • Head and face: Vision and hearing become sharper, and the skin becomes clearer.
  • Blood and the immune system: Blood flow to wounds increases, white blood cell count returns to standard, and immunity improves.
  • Stomach and hormones: Belly fat decreases, which lowers the risk of diabetes. In females, estrogen levels return to standard, and the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy increases.
  • Erectile dysfunction: In males, the risk of erectile dysfunction drops and the likelihood of having a healthy sex life improves.
  • Muscles and bones: Muscles become stronger and healthier, while bones are less prone to fractures.

Read more about what happens when a person quits smoking.

Research from 2021 notes that ways to quit smoking involve behavioral counseling, medications, and a combination of both.

Behavioral counseling

Behavioral counseling may entail advice from a:

  • doctor
  • nurse
  • smoking cessation specialist

Counseling options may include individual or group sessions. These can take place in person, over the phone, or through a mobile app.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the following drugs to help someone quit smoking:

  • Nicotine replacement therapy: These methods provide a controlled dose of nicotine, which reduces cravings. It comes in forms that include:
    • a transdermal patch
    • gum
    • lozenges
    • an inhaler
    • a nasal spray
  • Varenicline (Chantix): This drug blocks the effects of nicotine, which reduces a person’s enjoyment of smoking.
  • Bupropion (Zyban): This belongs to a class of drugs called atypical antidepressants. It reduces the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

Read our tips on ways to quit smoking.

If someone’s throat feels weird after quitting smoking, it is no cause for alarm. Throat symptoms are one of the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

When a person experiences coughing and sneezing, along with a weird throat, they most likely have a condition called smoker’s flu.

Nicotine withdrawal can also cause other symptoms that affect emotions and various aspects of physical health. However, it helps to remember that all the symptoms are only temporary.

Treatment of throat symptoms may involve at-home measures, such as using a humidifier and drinking warm fluids.

Quitting smoking leads to important health benefits, such as a lower risk of heart disease, lung conditions, and cancer.

Ways to quit include behavioral counseling, medications, or a combination of both.