Quitting smoking can be difficult, but it’s something millions of people have already done. That reality should provide hope to current smokers who recognize the potentially deadly nature of their habits and want to quit.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nicotine replacement therapy, or NRT, is the most commonly used family of quit smoking medications. In an effort to reduce the urge to smoke, NRT gives patients small, controlled amounts of nicotine, but none of the other dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes. Examples of NRT products include nicotine patches, nicotine gum, nicotine lozenges, and nicotine nasal spray.

While NRT has proven highly effective at helping many people overcome their urges to smoke, the Federal Drug Administration notes that it’s vital that smokers speak with their physicians prior to using an NRT product. While these products can be purchased over-the-counter, that does not mean they cannot pose a threat to certain people who are smoking. Men and women considering NRT to quit smoking can heed the following advice, courtesy of the FDA.

• Pregnant women should pause. Pregnant women understandably want to quit smoking the moment they learn they’re pregnant, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that women who smoke while pregnant are more likely to give birth too early. Babies born prematurely miss important growth that happens during the final weeks of pregnancy, and such children may be born with issues such as low birth weight, breathing and feeding difficulties, cerebral palsy, and problems with hearing or eyesight. Pregnant women who want to quit smoking should only begin NRT if their doctors approve. Quitting cold turkey might be difficult, but it could be the healthiest option for pregnant women and the children they’re carrying.

• Consider your current health. The FDA also recommends people with various preexisting conditions speak with their doctors before beginning NRT. Such conditions include diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or stomach ulcers. In addition, people who have recently had a heart attack and those with high blood pressure that is not controlled with medication must speak with their physicians before beginning NRT. The same goes for anyone with a history of irregular heartbeat and smokers who have been prescribed medication to help them quit smoking.

Smokers whose doctors give them the green light to go forward with NRT should not hesitate to report side effects, even if the treatment is working. While quitting smoking is a worthwhile goal, it’s important to pay attention to your body and remain on the lookout for potentially harmful side effects of NRT, including:

• nausea;

• dizziness;

• weakness;

• vomiting;

• fast or irregular heartbeat;

• mouth problems with the lozenge or gum; or

• redness or swelling of the skin around the patch that does not go away.

The presence of any of these symptoms, or any other irregularities NRT patients notice, should be brought to the attention of a physician immediately.

NRT can help smokers quit, but it’s vital that people considering NRT discuss it with their physicians before beginning any treatments.

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