One simple way people can protect their health during the coronavirus pandemic may be to stop vaping.
At the end of March, the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, warned the research community to be alert to the possibility that COVID-19 could hit certain populations particularly hard.
“Because it attacks the lungs,” Volkow wrote, “the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke tobacco or marijuana or who vape.”
Although there is still a lot more to understand about COVID-19, Volkow argued that “we can make educated guesses based on past experience” that people who smoke, vape, and use other substances “could find themselves at increased risk of COVID-19 and its more serious complications.”
Volkow is hardly the only health official to come forward with warnings about vaping during the coronavirus pandemic. The crux of the problem is that vaping can impair lung function, which can be deadly when it comes to avoiding the extreme symptoms of coronavirus.
“E-cigarettes can damage lung cells,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesman Michael Felberbaum told Bloomberg. Those who vape should be counted as having “underlying health issues,” he said, which means they “may have increased risk for serious complications from COVID-19.”
Coronavirus Progression and Respiratory Health
Researchers are still learning exactly how the coronavirus attacks your body, but so far the findings indicate that those with respiratory health issues are going to have a much harder time fighting off the infection.
Data from China suggests that 80% of people experience mild symptoms from the coronavirus. They get infected, their immune system fights back, and they develop a fever and a cough, but they regain their health in a few weeks.
However, for a significant amount of people, the infection progresses, ultimately causing viral pneumonia that takes over the lungs.
Once this happens, the situation can quickly turn deadly. Both the infection and the body’s own immune system response make it harder for the lungs to get a person enough oxygen. Lung damage may then trigger acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), leaving some people unable to breathe without a ventilator.
Dr. Brian Garibaldi, who specializes in acute lung injury at Johns Hopkins University, told the Wall Street Journal, “The ventilator is buying time for the lung to repair itself after a virus has run its course and the immune system response has calmed down.”
If someone’s lungs are too far compromised, the aid of a ventilator may not be enough.
The massive need for ventilators, test kits, gloves, and other resources has dominated the news as the spread of infection pushes the country’s healthcare system to its limit. Citizens who are able to do so have been asked to stay home, stay safe, and do their part in flattening the curve.
For people with asbestos-related diseases, this guidance is especially important.
Is Asbestos-Related Disease an Underlying Health Condition?
As the number of coronavirus cases began to spike in the United States, Dr. Arthur Frank, professor environmental and occupational health at Drexel University, spoke with the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO).
Frank recommended that people follow the precautions and tips from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about how to prevent getting sick. This was especially important for people with asbestos-related diseases because they often have the “underlying health conditions” that increase the severity of coronavirus.
He told ADAO:
“One’s immune system may be compromised, or any medications being taken can weaken one’s ability to respond to an infection with the virus.
Also, if the lungs have been compromised by fibrosis, then the ability to fight off the effects of the coronavirus may also be reduced.”
Especially for those who are over 60-years-old, Frank advocates staying home and social distancing as much as possible. This will give someone who is at-risk the best chance of not being exposed to the virus.
For those with asbestos-related diseases, it is never a wise decision to use tobacco, even without the horrifying potential of developing COVID-19.
There are several decades of research that show a deadly connection between tobacco use and mesothelioma (and other asbestos-related diseases). There are also studies of previous coronaviruses, such as MERS and SARS, which found links between smoking, air pollution, and higher rates of disease.
Because widespread vaping is only a recent phenomenon, data remains fairly scarce, and the true extent of all the health risks will not be fully understood for years. Still, individuals and communities have to make decisions about their health right now.
Nicotine is incredibly addictive, and many of those who vape begin as teens. This both increases the health risks and makes quitting exceptionally difficult.
Giving up vaping may seem impossible, but the potential rewards have never been so high.