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Tobacco Abuse

Nicotine Patch

Last Updated August 2022 | This article was created by familydoctor.org editorial staff and reviewed by Robert "Chuck" Rich, Jr., MD, FAAFP

Congratulations on your decision to quit smoking! This is called smoking cessation. Quitting is the best thing you can do to improve your heath. It lowers your risk of cancer and heart disease. It also improves your quality of life. You’ll be able to breathe better and be more active. Not smoking improves your appearance, too. You’ll have whiter teeth, fresher breath, and younger-looking skin.

Several tools can help you quit smoking. Many are nicotine-based products that help you reduce your dependence on nicotine over time. The nicotine patch is a popular smoking cessation tool. You wear the patch on your skin. The patch slowly releases nicotine into your system. This helps your body get used to having less and less nicotine over time.

Follow these instructions to use the patch correctly.

  • Stop smoking on the day you start using the patch.
  • Do not smoke or use other forms of tobacco while using the patch. This can lead to health problems.
  • Do not let anyone else use your patch.
  • Keep the patch away from children and pets.
  • Talk to you doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and want to use the patch.
  • Talk to your doctor before using the patch if you are younger than 18 years old.

Path to improved well being

Quitting smoking is not easy. You can improve your odds for quitting by consulting your doctor about which smoking cessation method works best for you. If you and your doctor decide that the nicotine patch is best for you, follow directions while using it. Here are some things to consider:

What do I need to tell my doctor?

Tell your doctor if you take any medicines. The patch may change how some medicines work. Also, tell your doctor if you have any illnesses, including the following:

  • Chest pains or a recent heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Thyroid disease
  • Diabetes
  • Skipped or an irregular heartbeat
  • Allergies to tape, bandages, or medicines
  • Skin rashes or skin diseases
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney or liver disease

My skin tingles under the patch. Is that normal?

It is normal to feel mild tingling, itching, or burning when you put the patch on. This feeling usually lasts 15 minutes to 1 hour. When you take off an old patch, your skin may be red where the patch was. Your skin should not stay red for more than 1 day. If the skin stays red for 4 days, or if it gets swollen or sore, do not put on a new patch. Call your doctor.

Can I wear the patch in the shower?

You can wear your patch when you bathe, shower, swim, or soak in a hot tub. Water will not harm the patch as long as it is firmly in place.

What if the patch falls off?

If your patch comes off, put a new one on a different area of skin. Change it again at the usual time the next day.


  • Open the sealed package only when you are ready to put on a patch.
  • Peel the protective cover off the patch and throw the cover away. Try not to touch the sticky side of the patch (the side with the protective cover).
  • Put one patch on a clean, dry area of skin on your upper body that isn’t covered with hair, such as your stomach, upper arm or side. Do not put the patch on burned, cut, or sore skin.
  • To apply the patch, place the sticky side on your skin and press it firmly with the palm of your hand for 10 seconds. Make sure the patch is flat and smooth against your skin.
  • Wash your hands after putting on the patch. Nicotine on your hands could get into your eyes or nose and cause stinging or other problems. Or you could accidentally transfer the nicotine to others you come into contact with.
  • Wear the patch for the amount of time shown on the package. Most patches are worn for 16 or 24 hours. If you have sleep problems when you have the patch on, you can take it off at bedtime and put on a new patch in the morning.
  • When you take off the old patch, fold it in half with the sticky sides together. Put the old patch in the package from the new patch or in the disposal tray provided. Put the package or tray in the trash where children and pets cannot find it.
  • Put the next patch on a different area of skin. Use a different area each day. You can use a previously used area again after waiting 1 week.

Things to consider

The nicotine patch may not be the nicotine replacement for you if you have sensitive skin or other skin problems. You also will not be able to use the nicotine patch if you are allergic to adhesive tape.

You may have trouble sleeping while using the nicotine patch. You may also have abnormal dreams or dreams that are more vivid than usual.

You should not suddenly stop using the patch. Doing so can cause you to go through nicotine withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nervousness
  • Increased appetite/weight gain
  • Inability to concentrate
  • General anxiety
  • Sleep interference

When to see a doctor

Call your doctor if you experience any of the following while using the patch. These could be signs that you are getting too much nicotine (an overdose) from the patch. If you experience any of these problems, take off the patch and call your doctor right away.

  • Dizziness
  • Upset stomach
  • Bad headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Cold sweats
  • Drooling
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Hearing problems
  • Weakness or fainting

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Can the nicotine patch help me quit smoking?
  • Do you recommend one brand of nicotine patch over another?
  • Are there different strength nicotine patches? If so, which strength should I use?
  • Can I use the nicotine patch as long as I have cravings?
  • How long after my last cigarette should I wait before applying the patch?
  • Will the patch help keep me from gaining weight when I quit smoking?


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Learn About Nicotine Replacement Therapy

National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus: Nicotine Transdermal Patch


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