With the myriad of methods for ingesting weed or tobacco available, vaping remains among the favorites. But are you wondering why you keep getting a cough every time you vape? This in-depth piece can help answer this question and share tips on avoiding coughing when you vape.
Unlike smoking, using a vape allows the user to avoid taking a beating to their lungs or throat.
Also, contrary to methods such as using a bong, vaping doesn't produce thick and robust smoke. However, when vaping, you will still experience some coughing here and there.
You must be asking yourself, "exactly why do I cough when I vape?”
Our in-depth guide below breaks down all the factors associated with using a vape. The article also shares practical methods to avoid this from happening so you can enjoy your weed and its effects without stressing your throat or lungs.
Let's start with a personal story:
The first time Tim tried vaping, he coughed uncontrollably for a minute or two. It was a first painful experience. It was the first hiccup he experienced while transitioning to vaping. Tim has been a smoker for 11 years. The first experience with vaping almost made him give up.
It turns-out Tim is not the only one to have experienced the painful cough. When smokers get a vape pen, they try to reproduce the same action on a cigarette. Through mid-vape, they splutter.
Today, we'll discuss vape cough – as it has come to be known. But first, let's understand what vape cough is.
Vape Cough: What is it?
Coughing is just unpleasant for anyone. When the body is removing toxins away from the respiratory tract, you will cough.
A vape cough is different though, the first time you puff from a vape, you'll most likely cough.
If you vaped and coughed after that, you should know it is normal, and you are not alone. In fact, in a recent survey done on 600 vapers, 57% admitted to having coughed the first time.
Although the figure reduces from 57% - 7% within ten weeks, you should note it is a temporary reaction, and it will go away.
How To Stop Coughing When You Vape?
There are several reasons why you cough when you vape. However, the primary cause is simply a parched throat. Without keeping hydrated, you are more susceptible to coughing every time you vape.
So, before you consider other options, the most effective approach to avoid coughing is to keep your body hydrated - drink plenty of water, especially before and after vaping. However, this isn't the only way to prevent coughing. After all, there might be another underlying cause for your coughing.
● Explore Different Inhalation Techniques
In some cases, hydration may not necessarily be the root cause of coughing when you vape. Ever noticed that you cough even after chugging down liters of water? Well, the problem may be how you inhale the vapor.
Yes, you read that right. Improper inhalation can cause coughing! Even though vaping tends to be a healthier alternative to smoking, many people give up on it due to side effects such as coughing.
The trick is simple – all you have to do is modify how you vape. For example, try taking slower and lighter puffs if you notice a cough every time you draw on your vaporizer.
Doing so will help you get used to vaping. Eventually, you can increase your pace, although it may take some time. However, once you master the inhalation skill, you don’t have to worry about the annoying coughs anymore.
● Change PG/VG Ratio
Alternatively, the problem may be that you need to change your PG/VG ratio. Some good-quality vaporizers come with adjusters that allow you to set the vape amount you want to inhale. Thus, if your vape enables you to do so, you can alter it to fit your needs. Generally, a higher PG ratio can cause irritation and cough in new users.
The solution is to set a lower PG and higher VG ratio to help smoothen the vapor sensation in your throat.
Keep in mind that you inhale fewer cannabinoids and terpenes (or nicotine for cigarettes) with a higher VG and lower PG ratio. As a result, getting the kick you desire may take longer.
● Lower The Power
If you use vaporizers powered by electricity, excessive wattage could be the source of your coughing. As a result, you'll want to tweak the voltage and power output. A greater wattage allows your vape to produce more vape in a shorter amount of time.
Reset the power output at shorter intervals until you find a setting that works for you.
● Control The Heat
Sometimes, the heating process results in hot, dry herb or e-liquid vapor. When the hot vapor hits your throat and lungs, the sensitive tissues automatically react to it by causing a cough. In this case, you want to ensure the vapor isn't too hot and that your throat and lung tissues are never irritated.
Make it a point to have a bottle of water or a cup of tea when you are vaping. Additionally, you can invest in a hose attachment to cool the vapor. If your vaporizer allows you to do so, lower the heat settings so that the vapor doesn't come out too hot.
● Manage Airflow
A large vaporizer delivers enormous amounts of vape and air into your lungs, which is why they work best for more experienced users. However, the high amounts of vapor these devices push into one's lungs may be difficult for newer users to handle.
The good news is that you don’t have to take the vape back to the seller. Instead, most of these devices come with an airflow setting. You can simply adjust the settings to get a much lower amount of vapor until you are more accustomed to the device.
● Avoid Chain Vaping
Just like a smoker, vape users can also develop chain vaping tendencies. Again, like chain-smoking, your body tends to react to alert you that you are overdoing it. In this case, it does so by forcing you to cough uncontrollably. The best solution is to stop chain vaping! Instead, pace yourself, have a few puffs, and take adequate breaks between your vaping sessions.
● Change Parts
For larger vape kits, your coughing problem may result from the parts inside – particularly ones such as the coil. A coil is a small heating element in the vape used to vaporize the e-liquid, weed concentrate, or dry herb and turn it into the vapor you inhale. In large vape kits, coils are usually replaceable.
After using your vape kit for a while, the coil begins to collect residue, and the particles from it cause you to cough. Therefore, the solution is to replace the coil with better quality or simply invest in a vape kit with a built-in coil.
Vape Cough: Should You Be Worried?
If you have a vape cough, there is nothing to be worried. It is a sign your body needs time to adapt to vapour. It clearly shows you have a healthy body. The lungs detect vapour as a foreign substance.
The numbers show that vape cough is a temporary effect. 93% of all those who had vape cough saw it go away. As your vaping experience gets better, the coughing will vanish.
Ways to Stop Coughing when vaping
Coughing is a common issue (some would argue the major issue) when you’re just starting to vape. There are many different reasons you can cough when vaping but the main one is dehydration.
Drink some water before.
Mouth-to-lung or direct drow?
Which technique is better? Well, it can depend on what you are used to aswell as how you feel about the e-cigarette. Some people find the mouth-to-lung draw more comfortable than a direct draw. The reasoning behind this is that it mimics what most smokers are used to when smoking a cigarette – it’s not alien to them. So if you are trying out vaping for the first time and want something familiar, mouth to lung could be the way forward.
Just wait a bit
A lot of people who’ve switched to vaping from smoking have issues with coughing while making the transition. Many don’t need to, and it is something that can be remedied in most cases.
This is because the cilia in the throat begin to regrow when initially inhaling vapor. The vapor itself does not cause inflammation, but smoking can cause this. In a sense, smokers who switch to vaping are in a temporary stage of switching one type of lung irritation for another.
So, what is the cause of vape cough?
Vape Cough: What Causes It?
There are many different reasons why you have a vape cough. The root cause could be your biology as a smoker, the chemical composition of the e-juice, a faulty vape pen, or the nicotine content.
To understand, we will discuss in details the primary causes of vape cough below:
The Chemicals in Vape Juice
Propylene Glycol or PG is the most common compound in vape juice. The mixture is used in e-liquid as an additive. When heated PG produces vapor that odorless, colorless, and tastes sweet.
According to some people, PG is an irritant additive. People have admitted being sensitive to PG. In some rare cases, some vapers are allergic to propylene glycol. The allergic reaction is very mild, though it will irritate your respiratory tract.
The High nicotine levels
The primary reason why vapers cough is the intake of high nicotine levels. Smokers are not used to inhaling this much nicotine at once.
First-time vapers inhale a whole lot of air with pure nicotine. The changes in nicotine levels cause a throat hit differently from a cigarette. The high nicotine will cause a slight burn on the throat and lungs.
The throat hit will cause throat irritation leading to coughing. Although this is a natural response and your throat needs to get used to such high levels. The same will happen if an experienced vaper vapes zero-nicotine content. The throat hit will be different.
The Regrowth of Cilia
Cilia are tiny hair-like projections on the surface of the respiratory tract. Their primary function is to protect the lungs from foreign materials. They trap any particles and redirects it away from the lungs.
When you have been smoking for a long time, smoke destroys your cilia. The moment you stop smoking, these cilia grow back. And once you start vaping, you will experience vape cough. Coughing is a sign of cilia regrowth.
Technique Used to Vape
The vaping community consists of people who quit smoking or are trying to. What they perceive is, smoking is like vaping. It is entirely wrong. Smoking and vaping are two different activities.
To smoke, you have to inhale cigarette smoke through the mouth and into the lungs. You cannot do this to vaping. To vape, you inhale the vapour, hold it in the mouth then inhale into the lungs.
This technique has proven to stop vape cough as your body adjusts to vaping.
Vape pen e-liquid is primarily Propylene glycol (PG) and Vegetable glycerin (VG). These additives attract water particles to form clouds of vapor. Clouds of vapor is what you see when you exhale.
If you are dehydrated, your throat will be dry. The PG and VG additives will lack water particles to form a vapor. They will irritate the throat, and the discomfort leads to coughing.
Wattage Setting of Your Vape Pen
If you are starting your vaping journey, begin vaping on a lower wattage. At high watts level, your vape pen will be using more power. And with a single puff, you will be inhaling a lot of vape juice vapor, which is hot.
You may be impressed with the clouds of vapor, but this comes with a price. Both of these factors contribute to coughing.
Vape Airflow Setting
Your airflow setting is one of the causes of vape cough. Your airflow needs to balance with e-liquid vapor. Based on your preference and tolerance level, you need to balance between the two. A low airflow setting leads to a high concentration level of e-juice and hot vapor.
It will cause throat irritation leading to coughing. If the airflow is set to be high, you will inhale more vapor than expected. As the vapor rushes into the lungs, you will cough.
Now that you know what causes vape cough lets elaborate on how to prevent it.
Vape Cough: How to Prevent It?
In some cases, smokers who try to switch to vaping, never succeed to do it at the end. Vape cough is the first impression of vaping. Some smokers who tried vaping their friend's vape pen coughed their lungs out.
It's tough to switch from something smooth to something harsh. Do not let vape cough stop you from making the switch to vaping. Here are suggestions to ease with the coughing.
Ways to Stop Coughing when vaping
Change to A Tolerable PG/VG Ratio
Earlier, we saw that some vapers are sensitive to PG. if this is you, you can opt for a vape juice that is less of PG and more of VG (vegetable glycerin). VG is smoother than PG.
In high powered vape pens, vapers need to use vape juice with high VG content. Vapers have realized that high VG content prevents coughing. There's a small group of vapers who use 100% VG vape juice. Although, such e-liquids are harsh on vape pen atomizers.
As a new vaper, you should try e-liquids of different PG/CG ratios until you hit your tolerance level.
Vape Different Nicotine Levels
We've already seen vaping delivers more nicotine than a cigarette. To make a smooth and swift transition, you need to vape nicotine at the same level as your cigarette.
You should temporarily vape lower nicotine content levels if you are vaping and still coughing.
The throat hit needs to reduce to stop coughing. But once you figure the tolerable level of nicotine. You can increase from that level.
Stay Hydrated- Drink Lots of Water
Since PG and VG use lots of water to form clouds of vapour, vaping for long sessions will leave your throat dry. By drinking lots of water, PG and VG will be smooth on the throat. And coughing will eventually stop.
Lower Wattage on Your Vaporizer
Since some vape pen does not allow you to change the wattage, you just need to get one with a high-resistance coil. A high-resistance coil allows less power to pass through. Thus, it produces less vapor and cooler vapor.
Or you can try different atomizer heads to figure out one which fits you.
Wait It Out
There is a period where your cilia have to regrow back. The respiratory tract has to eliminate tar. In such a scenario, e-liquid vapor will cause a tickling sensation on the throat.
To adjust to these changes, you need to take baby hits in vaping. As much as its tempting, you should not puff cloud after cloud. In most cases, the second puff will deliver a dry hit.
A dry hit consists of heated air and burnt cotton. Puff this is extremely painful, and you will end coughing uncontrollably. To adjust with the changes, take small puffs and in a spread-out session.
Change Your Coil
After a period, your coil wears of and functions sub-optimal. The coil consists of a wick made out of cotton. The wick soaks the juice, and it's heated to release vapor.
After a while, the cotton will start to be burnt instead of heating. Using such a vaporizer will emit vapor contaminated with carbon. To figure out when you should change the coil, if the taste of your juice changes, considers changing it.
Coughing - A Common Side Effect Of Vaping (And Smoking)
No doubt, vaping has its side effects even though it is considered a safer alternative to smoking. However, the adverse effects of vaping are dependent on how much you do it and the ingredients you use.
What distinguishes vaping from smoking is that the weed or e-liquid in your vape doesn't go through a combustion or burning process. Thus, you are at a much lower risk of developing chest-related problems or illnesses.
Done the right way, vaping is much more forgiving to your throat and chest than smoking.
Nonetheless, it can still cause common side effects similar to those of smoking, such as dry throat, mouth and throat irritation, headaches, and of course, coughing! Sometimes coughing is simply a temporary and uncontrollable effect of vaping – especially among new users.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) studies, more than half of the new vape users experience coughing. However, over 90% of these people report no longer having the problem after about two months.
Sure, sometimes you can't control coughing when you vape. Regardless, this shouldn't be the reason to stop, especially if you are trying to quit smoking and transition to a safe method of getting your weed high or nicotine supply.
After all, vaping comes with plenty of advantages as well. Among the essential benefits of vaping include improved breathing, less tar, toxins, carcinogens, no bad weed or cigarette smoke, and better taste.
What Is Causing The Cough?
We’ve already established that it is not uncommon to cough when vaping. Although sometimes you can’t control or stop it from happening, it is a lot more manageable for the most part. The best way to go about this problem is to diagnose the root cause.
This is the only way you can truly stop coughing. So the best way is to take your time and figure out what is causing you to cough when you vape.
It is relatively easy to observe the symptoms and figure out what exactly is causing the problem. Some of the most commonly seen causes are as follows:
Dry Throat and Dehydration
Vaping causes a dry throat and sometimes dehydration if you do not drink enough water. Vapers who don't get enough water will experience this every time they vape.
If you don't drink enough water when vaping, you'll have a dry throat and sometimes even dehydration. This is something that vapers who drink water less often will notice whenever they vape.
Poor Inhalation Technique
If you are a smoker transitioning into vaping, some habits may die hard. For example, you may be trying to inhale your vapor using the same technique as smoking a joint. Doing so is one of the most common ways to get you coughing.
Taking larger hits without pausing to inhale will most certainly fill your lungs with vapor. This rush often causes irritation and triggers coughing. Furthermore, vaping without taking time to inhale fresh air also results in uncontrollable coughing.
Hot And Dry Vapor
Even though it doesn't go through combustion, vaping involves a high heating process. So, when you inhale the vapor, it is still hot and dry. Your lungs, on the other hand, are designed for inhaling air and not hot vapor.
As a result, you can easily cough when you inhale the vape. But, this is not to say that the vapor is irritating. It is just the high temperature and low humidity that cause your throat and lung tissues to react. Many vape users choose to have a drink of water or tea at hand when vaping to tackle this problem.
Alternatively, others invest in a hose attachment to cool the vapor before it hits the lungs. If you have a larger adjustable vape kit, you can lower the heating temperature of the vaporizer.
Coughing is common when heating is involved, whether you're smoking or vaping cannabis. This is because weed contains THC and other cannabinoids, which are considered irritants by many experts.
As a result, when marijuana is combined with heat, it is almost guaranteed to trigger coughing. If your throat or lungs are too sensitive, though, cannabis edibles may be your only option.
Issues with Your Vape
Sometimes the problem may be within your vape. There are several factors associated with your vaporizer that may cause you to cough. These include:
- Unbalanced PG/VG ratio – high PG and low VG ratio easily irritate the lungs
- High power output and wattage releases more vape, which causes irritation and discomfort
- High heat settings result in hot vapor, which irritates the throat and lungs
- Airflow settings – too much vapor into the lungs in a short period irritates users
- Poorly functioning parts – Worn-out coils or those filled with residue can release irritants when inhaled from the vaporizer. Additionally, larger vape kits have multiple replacement parts that can quickly wear out and affect their overall functioning.
- Damaged vape mod or atomizer results in inadequate heating or dispensing of vapor which ultimately causes coughing
- Other settings – PG/VG ratios, power settings, heat settings, and airflow settings are just a few of the adjustments that affect your vape. Depending on the design, other factors can also influence the way it functions. So, before using it, make sure it is fine-tuned. Also, go through its manual if it has one.
It's possible that vaping or the equipment used in the process isn't the issue. Instead, it's about your health. Smokers who have been hooked on cigarettes, bongs, or joints for an extended period are more likely to have this problem.
By now, your lung and throat tissues and membrane will have become more sensitive and irritated. Conditions such as damaged cilia are among the common side effects of tobacco and weed smoking. Cilia are primarily responsible for removing dirt and mucus from your airway and promoting proper breathing. However, prolonged tobacco and weed smoking can finally result in the damaging of these hairs. But as soon as you quit smoking, these hairs begin to grow back.
Therefore, any form of heat or irritants on the lungs and throat easily triggers coughing, especially when these hairs are still damaged or starting to grow. That is why it will take some time for your body to get used to vaping. The good news is that you don’t have to worry about the increased risks of developing cancer when vaping compared to smoking.
Low-Quality Weed Concentrate
Weed concentrates in the form of oils are most commonly used in vaping. Unfortunately, while you can find many weed concentrates in the market, not all are of the best quality. Poor quality weed concentrates are usually laden with chemicals, additives, and preservatives.
Some low-quality THC concentrates also contain vitamin E acetate, pesticides, opioids, poisons, fungicides, and heavy metals. In many cases, smaller and commercial vaporizers are filled with what is advertised as weed oil.
The weed oil is mixed with chemicals such as propylene glycol or polyethylene glycol to thin it. Unfortunately, these two chemicals are exceptionally unsafe to heat and inhale. Thus, when the vape juices transform into vapor, you will end up inhaling these chemicals as well.
Depending on their toxicity, some of these elements can cause chronic coughing. However, ground cannabis or dry herb is much safer and forgiving – heating and inhaling its vapor means you will not be inhaling the chemicals.
Takeaway: Use A Dry Herb Vaporizer
Even though you can’t control coughing when vaping, the good news is that there are plenty of solutions to tackle and eliminate the cough. If you don't want to bother yourself with the time-consuming diagnosis as you battle out your annoying, prickly coughs, go for another solution.
The simplest remedy to tackling coughing is to opt for dry herb vaporizers. For one, these are safer for your health. You don't have to burn the herb, so there is no smoke, irritants, or carcinogens. Using dry herbs, you can continue to vape without worrying about the irritating cough.
A good quality dry herb vaporizer also heats the natural herb without burning to make it healthier and safer to inhale. However, these are not the only benefits you get from using a dry herb vape. Typically, this form of vaping also delivers a better-pronounced flavor and a milder smell.
With that said, you have to be mindful of the type of herbs and vape you invest in. The best quality dry herbs will cost you anywhere from $50 and above. A good quality dry herb vape, on the other hand, can go as high as $200 – but it is most certainly worth the investment. In addition, you don't have to worry about malfunctioning parts or the vape wearing out quickly!
Furthermore, when it comes to dry herbs, what you see is what you get. Unlike weed concentrates, oils, or waxes, you don’t have to worry about manufacturers adding flavorings, additives, or preservatives to enhance the flavor and smell. With dried herbs, you just have to make sure you pick the right quality.
Therefore, when you are shopping for dry herbs, look out for abnormalities such as smell, mold, and mildew, which are significant indicators for weed that is about to rot. You also want to familiarize yourself with the different strains to ensure you are investing in the best option.
If dry herb vaping doesn’t work out for you, it doesn’t mean you can’t get your weed high. You can still achieve your daily fix even without smoking a bong, joint, or vaping. There are many other safer alternatives for doing so, which include:
Unlike vaping or smoking, edibles don't require any heating, burning, or smoking. Therefore, they don't pose any risk whatsoever to your lung health. The best thing about opting for edibles is that they come in different forms. You can take candy, cookies, brownies, gummies, and many other food types.
You can even make your edibles at home. For example, you can bake your favorite German chocolate cake with weed. The downside to opting for edibles is that it takes relatively long for their effects to kick in. However, just as it takes longer to kick in, the high is also long-lasting. So, if you are planning on opting for edibles, you may want to clear your schedule for at least 8 to 12 hours.
While some people may refer to sublinguals as edibles, they are not the same. Unlike edibles, you don’t have to swallow sublinguals. These types of weed products come in the form of tinctures, films, and tablets that dissolve. You can simply ingest them by placing them under your tongue. Doing so makes it easier for them to get absorbed into your bloodstream, which helps accelerate their effects.
If you don’t want to take your weed through the mouth, you can choose to use topicals. This is perfect for users who wish to see the therapeutic effects of cannabis rather than achieve a high. Furthermore, topicals boast excellent pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties. Cannabis topicals come in patches, creams, or balms that you can easily apply to the skin.
For a more potent solution, you can opt for weed suppositories. While this idea may seem impossible and off-putting, it is a popular method of taking weed. Similar to topicals, suppositories are a better option for users who want therapeutic properties rather than getting high. CBD-infused suppositories with high THC content help to relieve pain and nausea as well as tackle inflammation.
Bottom line, you will undoubtedly experience coughing when vaping – especially if you are a beginner. This shouldn't be an issue! However, if the coughing is more persistent, you certainly want to find a solution to the problem. In most cases, there isn't any other cause for coughing than the ones stated above.
Similarly, the solutions are usually the same ones as we’ve described. Regardless, if you are not willing to deal with the coughing at all, dry herb vaping is your next best solution. If that doesn’t seem to work for you, you can still find various other methods to get your cannabis supply – whether you desire the high or want to enjoy the therapeutic effects.
Remember, take it easy and take it slow.