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Healthcare

Smoking Can increase the Chances of COVID-19

Believe it or not, smoking is one of the biggest causes of multiple diseases and deaths worldwide. Every year, thousands of people die from the complications of smoking, even those who are younger and have no other contributing factor in a medical illness. Although health experts have always been focusing on smoking dangers the on-going pandemic has made it even more important to quit smoking as COVID-19 directly targets the lungs.

A new study has revealed that smoking contributes to developing symptoms of COVID-19 and increasing the chances of complications. This risk is extremely high in smokers as compared to non-smokers and occasional smokers. The complete study findings are now published in the journal Thorax.

The research team from King’s College London investigated how smoking affects the risks of COVID-19 complications. They obtained data from a symptom tracking app called ZOE COVID Symptom Study.

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11% of the total participants in this study were habitual smokers. Although this is a relatively lesser representation of the actual percentage of smokers in the UK’s population, yet it is considerably high.

More than 1/3rd of the participants reported that they are not feeling well during the period of entering data to this app (March and April 2020) during the first wave of this pandemic. The smokers were at 14% high risk of developing the typical COVID-19 symptoms such as dry cough, fever, difficulty in breathing as compared to the non-smoking group.

The smokers were also reported to experience a relatively high burden of these symptoms. Nearly 29% of smokers reported having five symptoms associated with COVID-19. More than 50% of smokers reported 10+ symptoms which include diarrhea, muscle pain, loss of smell, confusion, etc.

Smokers who were confirmed with COVID-19 had extreme complications making them two times more likely to visit a hospital as compared to the non-smokers. Based on these results, the research team has recommended that COVID-19 awareness campaigns should emphasize smoking cessation to lower the risk of complications.

Smoking can not only increase the likelihood of contracting the virus but also increase the chances of experiencing extreme symptoms and requiring hospitalization. They may also take longer recovery periods and post-recovery complications than non-smokers. Not to mention, the risk of death by COVID-19 is also higher in smokers, because of their impaired lungs.

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This study emphasizes that it is the best time to think about quitting smoking. While it looks difficult at first, with proper information, guideline, and medical help, it becomes much more manageable. Health experts suggest identifying the risks associated with smoking and evaluate your health to find motivation for smoking cessation. Right now, the whole world is battling with a deadly pandemic which is probably the highest motivation that a smoker may find.

Quitting smoking at this stage will not only lower the risk of contracting the virus but also save from complications and death, even if a person gets infected. It will also save him from a number of other diseases such as lungs cancer, cardiovascular diseases, breathing difficulties etc, all of which increase the likelihood of an early death.

Areeba Hussain

The author is a fulltime medical and healthcare writer. She graduated in Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. Her areas of prime interest are medicine, medical technology, disease awareness, and research analysis. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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