Living with Diabetes

Nicotine patches & gum

Using nicotine patches and gum?

Nicotine is an addictive substance but is not responsible for causing cancer and heart attacks. It is largely responsible for the 'craving'  you feel for cigarettes in the initial phase when you give up smoking. It is now possible to take nicotine in a 'smoke free' form through patches and nicotine-based chewing gum. This reduces the withdrawal symptoms which may otherwise make you want to 'go back'.

What are the side effects?

If you wish to use a nicotine replacement it is vital that you do not smoke as the effects may be very unpleasant. If you do not smoke the effects are often mild. You may feel slightly sick or dizzy and some people describe nightmares. Other side effects described are

  • cough, sore throat
  • muscle or joint pains
  • headaches
  • flu like symptoms

What are the contra-indications?

You should not use nicotine patches if

  • you are allergic to the patches
  • recent angina, heart attack or stroke
  • irregular heartbeat
  • pregnant or breast feeding

How long do I need to take this for?

Usually no longer than two or three months.

Can I become addicted to patches/gum?

No they do not have the same potential for addiction as cigarettes.

How do I use the patches?

  • Place the patch on first thing in the morning using a different bit of skin each day.
  • avoid skin creases or folds. Use an area of skin which is dry and not hairy. Avoid skin which is broken, red or where there is a rash.
  • Do not use more than one patch at a time.
  • Wear the patch for at least 16 hours each day. It may be removed at bedtime or worn through till the next day.
  • Dispose of used patches in a considerate way

Can I bathe wearing the patches?

You can bathe and swim for short periods without disturbing the patch if it has been applied properly.

How do I use the gum?

  • when you get the urge to smoke - chew gum instead
  • You need to use over 10 pieces a day, though not more than 15 for maximum benefit
  • Do not swallow gum
  • Avoid eating or drinking while chewing
  • Chew the gum slowly for about half an hour and follow the instructions on the pack
  • ALWAYS remember to keep the gum away from children!


Dr Nishan Wijenaike, Consultant Physician
West Suffolk Hospitals Diabetes Service
October 2002