Smokers suffer more COVID-19 complications, pulmonary specialists warn

smoking and COVID infection.PNG
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Pulmonary specialists with Phoebe Putney Health System warn that people who smoke have a greater risk of contracting COVID-19, and more severe infections.

Dr. Shanti Akers, a pulmonary critical care physician with Phoebe, says she is seeing more signs of tobacco use in COVID-19 patients. And that underlying respiratory problems like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) suppress the smoker's immune system, therefore increasing their risk of transmission. Akers encourages those that smoke to be diligent in preventing the spread of the virus.

"My worry of course is that people don't take it seriously and don't quit smoking and aren't careful with social distancing and section control guidelines.... that this will allow patients who are particularly vulnerable to get incredibly sick," Akers explained.

Akers goes on to say that the risk for COVID-19 infection is also largely dependent on the amount of pre-existing conditions a patient has.

"What we do have is some evidence based on case reports and some studies done that there is a risk of increased severity of COVID-19 infection. Both in terms of the severity of the illness, but also even with the risk of dying from COVID-19," Akers added.

She stresses preventative measures for smokers including wearing a mask in close quarters, in an indoor setting or any place where they can't maintain social distancing.