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Tobacco Use and its Effect on your Ear, Nose, and Throat Health

Cigarette smoking and smokeless tobacco are known hazards to your health. It is an issue that is addressed in the Ear, Nose, and Throat office for many reasons.

First, cigarette smoke causes irritation in the mucus membranes of the upper respiratory tract, including the nose, sinuses, and Eustachian tubes. Cigar smoke does the same thing. This causes the tissues to swell and produce very thick mucus. Thin mucus is important because it traps dirt, allergens and germs that are then swept away by the cilia (tiny hairs in your nose and sinuses, and lungs). You either sneeze or cough them out, blow them out, or swallow them and they are digested and cause you no harm. Thin mucus also has a role in killing germs, making it one of the first lines of defense in your immune system. Thick mucus makes it difficult for the cilia to do their job, and the chemicals in the smoke actually work to paralyze the cilia for hours at a time so that they cannot help clean out the respiratory system. This allows dirt, allergens, germs, and contaminated mucus to build up in your entire upper respiratory tract where it causes unpleasant symptoms as well as sinus and ear infections. This is the same process that goes on in your lungs and can lead to chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and pneumonia as well as lung cancer. Cigarette smoke not only causes lung cancer, it causes other cancers as well.

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