Over the last few months, the coronavirus pandemic has been the topic at the forefront of everyone’s minds. We’re all doing our best to social distance and stay safe, in hopes of not contracting the virus or spreading it to others.
While there is still much to learn about COVID-19, one thing that is certain is that certain groups of people are more vulnerable to the virus. This not only includes the elderly and those with an underlying health condition, but smokers as well.
Here’s what you need to know about being a smoker and the coronavirus, and how you can best protect yourself during these unprecedented times.
Why Smokers Are More Vulnerable
There are many reasons why smokers are more vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus. Smoking involves putting the fingers and a cigarette in contact with the lips. This means that smokers could be putting contaminated fingers and/or cigarettes into the mouth, which greatly increases the risk of hand-to-mouth transmission.
There is also an increased risk to smokers, especially those who share cigarettes or mouthpieces of other smoking products. This increases the risk of communal spread.
Smokers are also at an increased risk of contracting the coronavirus because of how smoking negatively impacts the respiratory system. Those who smoke are already at an increased risk of reduced lung capacity, lung disease, and overall poor respiratory health.
Smoking also decreases the effectiveness of the immune system. Smoking suppresses immune cells in the nose, while also destroying the cilia in the lungs. Cilia trap viruses and remove them from the airways and are one of the body’s best defenses against infection.
Because coronavirus is a respiratory virus that attacks the lungs, smokers are at an increased risk.
Increased Risk of Severe Coronavirus Complications
Contracting the coronavirus isn’t a death sentence. In fact, we’ve seen the numbers that show that tens of thousands of people have contracted and beaten the virus. But, smokers face a higher risk of suffering severe coronavirus complications because of their impaired respiratory and immune systems.
If you already have respiratory issues, there’s a greater likelihood that you’ll get very sick because of how COVID-19 attacks the lungs. This is why smokers are more likely to get much sicker, and stay sicker for longer when suffering from any respiratory infection. This not only includes coronavirus but the flu and even the common cold.
Damaged lungs aren’t able to as effectively circulate oxygen throughout the body. This impacts breathing and other systems throughout the body.
A recent study conducted in China found that those who were hospitalized with coronavirus and were diagnosed with pneumonia were 14 times more likely to experience more severe side effects of the disease.
How to Minimize Your Risk of Contracting Coronavirus
If you’re a smoker, there are several things you can do in order to minimize the risk of contracting coronavirus. Obviously, the best and biggest step you can take is to quit smoking. When you stop smoking, your lungs and other parts of your body, such as your immune system, will begin to heal and repair.
You will also cough less and notice that you experience less shortness of breath within weeks of quitting. Cilia in the airways will begin to regrow, which improves your body’s ability to fight off a respiratory infection.
While it’s not easy to quit smoking, there are many resources available to help make the process a little less daunting. If you’re worried about nicotine withdrawal, consider a tobacco alternative that has everything you love about traditional tobacco products, nothing you don’t.
If you’re unwilling to quit smoking, there are steps you’ll want to take to protect yourself. First, never share cigarettes or other smoking products with others. You’ll also want to wash your hands before smoking to minimize the risk of hand-to-mouth transmission.
Follow CDC Guidelines
Whether you’re a smoker or not, it’s important to always follow the safety tips set forth by the CDC. These tips include:
- Staying at least six feet from others who may have been exposed to the virus
- Washing your hands often, for at least 20 seconds
- Disinfecting surfaces in your home and car
- Avoiding touching your mouth, nose, and eyes
COVID-19 is a deadly virus, so if you experience any of the known systems, such as a dry cough or fever, you’ll want to contact a medical professional immediately. This is even more urgent for smokers, who are more likely to contract pneumonia as well as other respiratory issues.
During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself. As a smoker, there’s an increased risk that you’ll experience more severe side effects of the infection. But, by quitting and following the recommended health and safety guidelines, you can minimize your risk of contracting the virus.
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