This Common Habit Might Cause More Severe COVID Symptoms
One of the most disconcerting and distressing aspects of COVID-19 is that infected patients experience a wide array of symptoms or no symptoms at all. While some people get away with a sore throat or a mere cough, others come down with a fever, shortness of breath and require hospitalization.
What exactly helps some people evade COVID symptoms when contracting the virus? What puts others at a higher risk of developing more severe symptoms? Researchers have been trying to find out the answers to these questions and found out that there are a few groups of people more at risk of developing severe illness from COVID, like seniors and people with underlying medical conditions.
A recent study discovered another vulnerable group: smokers. Read on to find out what makes people with a history of smoking more prone to contacting COVID-19 and developing more severe symptoms.
Smokers might experience a higher number of COVID symptoms
According to a study carried out by King’s College London and published in January in the journal Thorax, smokers might experience a greater number of COVID-19 symptoms than non-smokers. Data was collected between March and April last year from 2.4 million people, among whom 11 percent were smokers.
According to researchers, people who smoked on a daily basis had 14 percent more chances of developing COVID symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, fever and chills. In addition, they had 29 more chances of developing more than five symptoms and 50 percent more likely to experience more than 10 symptoms. As explained by study co-author, Mario Falchi, PhD, of King’s College’s School of Life Course Sciences, “our results clearly show that smokers are at increased risk of suffering from a wider range of COVID-19 symptoms than non-smokers.”
Smokers might develop more severe illnesses
According to the study authors, the more symptoms one experiences, the greater likelihood of turning into severe illnesses. Apart from the findings in the study, internal medicine specialist Spencer Kroll, MD, PhD said that COVID-19 patients who were also smokers developed more severe respiratory symptoms than non-smokers infected with COVID-19. “Chest X-rays and CT scans, even in minimally symptomatic patients, often show new and sustained abnormalities,” Kroll added.
Smokers are more likely to require hospitalization for COVID-19
The study also revealed that smokers infected with COVID-19 were two times more likely to need hospitalization compared to their non-smoker counterparts, something that was also suggested by a previous study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic Health System in Ohio and Florida.
According to Chief Medical Officer at TeleMed2U Javeed Siddiqui, MD, MPH, the number of smokers who contracted COVID-19 and needed to go to the hospital was much higher than that of COVID-19 patients with no history of smoking cigarettes. “We continue to see that patients who smoke cigarettes have more issues long term with breathing difficulties and coughing and shortness of breath,” Siddiqui added.
Smoking puts you at risk for severe COVID for various reasons
Various studies revealed that people with a history of smoking cigarettes are more likely to develop severe illnesses due to COVID. For instance, a study carried out by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and published in November 2020, found that exposure to direct cigarette smoke increases the number of COVID-19 infected cells. More than that, cigarette smoke adversely affects immunity and immune response to the virus.
As explained by UCLA study co-author, Brigitte Gomperts, MD, “if you think of the airways like the high walls that protect a castle, smoking cigarettes is like creating holes in these walls.” Smoking creates a “malfunction” in your body’s protection barriers against viruses and infections, allowing the virus to creep in and become stronger.
Speaking of infection, find out more about the New COVID-19 Variants: 7 Key Questions Answered By Experts.
Smoking could increase the risk of other respiratory illnesses
Unfortunately, smokers are not only at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing more severe symptoms. They are also more vulnerable to other illnesses such as respiratory ones. “Smoking destroys the cilia in your lungs, which are the tiny, hair-like structures that trap viruses and other foreign substances and sweep them out of your airways,” explained Kroll. “They’re one of your body’s main defenses against infection.”
According to Siddiqui, smokers produce more mucus which in turn forces their lungs to double their work of clearing the mucus caused by the damaged cilia. If you want to stay on the safe side, stop smoking and don’t forget to check out these 8 Ways to Protect Yourself Against the Mutated COVID-19 Variants.