The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic is causing great loss and fear for people all over the world. This is especially true of the elderly and patients with chronic or underlying diseases who are at high risk for infection, severe symptoms, and possibly even death.
When it comes to COVID-19, each patient displays symptoms in differing combinations and with differing severity. In most cases, the patient recovers fully either on their own or with treatment. Only a small percentage of cases have a high risk rate for fatality as a result of the disease. These include patients with chronic or underlying illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, or other respiratory diseases, including smoking-related diseases such as asthma, emphysema, and lung cancer.
Current information from the World Health Organization indicates that smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19, as the act of smoking results in the smokers’ fingers and hands being frequently in contact with their lips. As a result, if their hands or fingers are not clean or are contaminated, the possibility of transmission of the virus from hand to mouth increases. And if the patient has a history of smoking, the symptoms of the disease are 14 times more severe than for non-smokers.
Additionally, smoking in any form, whether a normal cigarette, an e-cigarette, or a hookah or baraku, can also spread the virus to others. This is because the smoke or vapor itself contains respiratory droplets including saliva, mucus and bacteria. If smokers are infected with COVID-19, they can easily spread the disease. As a result, it is not only the smokers themselves who would be exposed to infection, but also those around them who are exposed to secondhand smoke and those who come into contact with droplets that land on their clothing and other belongings.
The Guardian newspaper recently published an interview with Prof. John Wilson, a respiratory physician and President of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Prof. Wilson discussed the deadly effects of pneumonia in patients with COVID-19, who are divided into 4 types:
Smokers are usually classified within the group of those who have severe symptoms. People in this group, once infected, develop symptoms of coughing, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing due to an infection in the respiratory system which can cause pneumonia. For those who are weakened due to underlying conditions, or who have unhealthy lungs from smoking, the infection can spread more quickly and be far more severe than in non-smokers. This is because their lungs can eventually lose the ability to carry enough oxygen to the bloodstream and throughout the body, thus affecting other body systems resulting in the failure of organs such as the heart or kidneys and, ultimately, leading to death.
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the lives of every human being on the planet in one way or another. The important thing is that we all work to keep our physical and mental health as strong as possible. It’s been said that good health is the greatest wealth, and this is true because as long as we remain alive we can collect assets, money, gold, or any item of value. So please follow the recommendations of your doctors and know that the more we work together to defeat this pandemic, the sooner we can return to our normal lives and routines.
Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University , 2008