As the global impact of COVID-19 increases, the healthcare community evaluates the clinical impact and the needs of patients with lung disease, who are at an increased risk of serious complications due to COVID-19. Recently a review of studies by public health experts convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19 compared to non-smokers.
India is home to a substantial number of tobacco users, frequently characterised by people who are consuming smoke and smokeless tobacco, the synergistic effect of it on lung health. People whose lung health is affected by factors such as lung disease or smoking tend to be at higher risk for more severe symptoms of COVID-19. Tobacco consumption is associated with adverse health effects and is the prime cause of deaths globally. The underlying logic of a link between smoking and worse COVID-19 outcomes is that smoking is an established risk factor for respiratory infections, including the flu because it weakens the immune response that a person can mount against viral infection. Smokers may also greatly increase the risk of serious illness.
Suppressed immunity among smokers
As COVID-19 is a virus that primarily attacks the respiratory tract and lungs, anything that harms the lungs can result in more severe effects if people do become infected. Smoking increases the risk for respiratory infections, weakens the immune system, and is the primary cause of chronic health conditions like COPD, diabetes, and heart disease. Their immunity is suppressed because the mucosal barrier is damaged because of smoking. These diseases are considered pre-existing conditions that contribute to COVID-19 complications.
Smoking and vaping harms the lungs, leaving lung tissue inflamed, fragile, and susceptible to infection. And tobacco use has been proven to harm our immune system and airway-lining cells that contain cilia on their surface, which are our essential defenders against viruses like the novel coronavirus. Without them working properly, the lungs may be left undefended against the virus and susceptible to the most severe complications of the infection.
Signs and Symptoms of unhealthy lungs
Signs and symptoms of lung diseases depend on the specific condition. They can vary from person to person and change over time. While each lung condition has its own features, there are some common signs and symptoms that are seen with many lung disorders.
Shortness of breath
Wheezing, gasping for breath
Feeling like you're not getting enough air
Decreased ability to exercise
Coughing up blood or mucus
Pain or discomfort when breathing in or out
Tests to examine lung function
Lung function tests also called pulmonary function tests, measure the functioning of the lungs. Most of the tests involve assessing how much air a person can inhale and exhale. For instance, if a person exhales much less than the normal volume of air in one second or still has too much air in the lungs after exhaling forcefully; it may be a sign of lung disease. Some of the common lung function tests are spirometry, body plethysmography, lung diffusion capacity, bronchial provocation test, cardiopulmonary exercise stress test, pulse oximetry test, and arterial blood gas test.
Quit smoking to improve quality of life
Smoking affects material wellbeing, personal life, and the health of people around them. It also leads to financial burden for smokers and their families. Cigarettes have become increasingly expensive over the years and giving up smoking reduces financial stress and improves standards of living. It is well known that stopping smoking substantially reduces major health risks, such as the development of cancers, cardiovascular, and respiratory diseases. Quitting smoking also impacts on reduced depression, anxiety, and stress and improves positive mood and quality of
life. Hence it is advisable to practice deep breathing exercises, spiritual mantra chanting and music therapy which will enhance both smoking cessation effort and lung breathing capacity.
Precautionary measures such as toll-free quit lines, mobile text-messaging programs, and nicotine replacement therapies, can help in taking immediate steps to quit smoking. In these difficult times we should not forget the huge impact of smoking and plethora of severe lung diseases which can be prevented by simple cessation.