Smokers vulnerable to Covid-19

Why smokers are more vulnerable to Covid-19

If you are a smoker, then think before you pick up next cigarette. Recent reports on Covid-19 telling us that smokers are prone to severe covid-19 infections.

What this pandemic is telling us is, that we cannot take our health for granted. A normal hug, handshake or kissing gesture is not safe anymore. We cannot touch our face the way we used to. We don’t know when and where coronavirus can be present and get into our system. We are cautious and concerned about every breath we take. We wear masks to protect ourselves. It means normal people lungs are vulnerable to Covid-19. Then, what about smokers? Patients who are smokers are experiencing more complications with covid-19 infection and their recovery process is also slow.

Reasons for lungs vulnerability for covid-19

Lungs are amazing organs. They have an array of around 1200 miles of capillaries and 300 million-minute alveoli air sacs. During breathing or respiration process oxygen from incoming air enters blood and carbon dioxide the waste gas leaves the blood. If lungs function is reduced, it means the ability of lungs to exchange these two gases is reduced.

  • Smoking cause lung disease by damaging airways and alveoli. When a person smoke, cells that produce mucus in lungs and airways grow in both size and numbers. This results in increase of mucus and it thickens. The excess mucus clogs lungs causing infection and cough. The rejuvenation capacity of lungs decreases and lungs age faster.
  • Smoking irritates lungs because of inflammation. Smoke destroys lung tissues because of which the number of airspace and blood vessels that are essential for oxygen supply to critical organs also diminish.
  • Lungs are lined with broom like hairs namely cilia. Function of cilia is to keep lungs clean. Smoking slows down cilia movement and reduces cilia number.
  • Smoking damages circulation system. The tar chemicals present in cigarettes are harmful and poisonous to blood. This could result in blood clot, high blood pressure, high heart rate, thinner arteries & reduces blood amount that carry clean oxygen.
  • Apart from lungs, smoking is injurious to brain, stomach and other organs.

With such vulnerable lungs one can imagine how the immune system of the smoking person will be. Main symptoms of Covid-19 is “respiratory problem”. 

Generally, coronavirus infections begin at a protein receptor called ACE2 that is present on cell surfaces in the entire body including lower and upper respiratory tracts. Covid-19 plugs into the ACE2 receptor to inject its genetic material into cells for multiplication and spread. The ACE2 receptors numbers are abnormally more in smokers. Presence of more ACE2 receptors in lungs causes lungs to be more vulnerable for Covid-19. Covid-19 thus have tendency to cause more severe infections and long recovery process for smokers than nonsmokers.

A study published in New England journal of Medicine says that more than 1,000 patients in China, who were smokers needed intensive medical interventions than nonsmokers. Nearly 12.3% patients admitted in ICU for Covid-19 problems were smokers and were placed on ventilator or dead as compared to 4.7% nonsmokers.

A study conducted at Sheltzer’s lab, Massachusetts showed that the quantity of ACE2 receptors in smokers is more in goblet and club cells that secrete mucus-like fluid into respiratory tracts. Both goblet and club cells are mostly present in nose and throat of nonsmokers. Whereas in smokers these cells accumulate also in lungs and carry ACE2 receptors in addition to normal count. The mucus is a defense product of the smoke and mucus accumulation reduces lungs capacity and diminishes lungs health. This could be one of the strong reasons why Covid-19 infection is severe in patients who are smokers.

In addition, it is also noted that Covid-19 infection is severe in people who have preexisting conditions. The preexisting conditions such as cardiovascular disease, high BP, thinner arteries, weakened esophagus, acid reflux, poor blood circulation to skin– all can be present in smokers and “could be” the reasons for severe Covid-19 infection.

Adopting and living a healthy lifestyle can help people to fight such deadly disease. Practice Yoga, breathing exercises and expose yourself to fresh air to keep lungs healthy and happy. It is one way to beat Covid-19.

If you are a smoker then it is time to say “Quit”!

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Author: Sumana Rao | Posted on: April 29, 2020

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