If You’ve Done This, You’re Twice as Likely to Develop Severe COVID

This bad habit could raise your risk of hospitalization and death.

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The coronavirus isn't something to be taken lightly: The U.S. alone has already faced more than 423,000 fatalities from the virus. While most people get through an infection without needing to go to the hospital, others may experience more serious forms of COVID—which could be brought on by many different factors, including age, gender, and other health conditions. Now, new research has found that those who smoke are significantly more likely to develop severe COVID. Read on to find out how much smoking raises your risk for COVID complications, and for more coronavirus news, Moderna's Chief Medical Officer Just Gave This Upsetting Update.

You're more than twice as likely to be hospitalized from COVID if you smoke.

male doctor checking hospitalized female patient listening to her heart and nurse standing next to them all wearing protective facemasks - Pandemic lifestyles
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Researchers studied 7,102 COVID positive patients within the Cleveland Clinic Health system in Ohio and Florida, and published their findings in a Jan. 25 review in the JAMA Internal Medicine. The patients who had smoked an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for 30 or more years had a 2.25 times higher odds of hospitalization than those who had never smoked, the research concluded. Those who smoked for less than 30 years but more than 10 had 1.41 times higher odds of ending up in the hospital with a coronavirus infection. And for advice on staying healthy, If You're Doing This to Your Mask, the CDC Says You Need a New One

And you're almost twice as likely to die from the virus.

A young healthcare worker wearing a face shield and a face mask wears a worried expression while touching her forehead.
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Heavy smokers weren't only more likely to be hospitalized. According to the review, patients who had smoked an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for 30 or more years were also 1.89 times more likely to die after being diagnosed with COVID than patients who had never smoked. Those who had smoked for less than 30 years had similar mortality results compared to non-smokers. And for more recent coronavirus research, If You Have This in Your Blood, You May Be Safe From COVID, Study Says.

Your severe COVID risk may still be higher even if you've stopped smoking.

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While quitting is good for your health, you may still be at heightened risk even if you've stopped smoking. According to the researchers, "cumulative exposure to cigarette smoke" is a risk factor for hospitalization and death from COVID, not just current exposure. The researchers also said that "smoking is imperfectly classified in patient electronic medical records," especially given that former smokers are sometimes classified as non-smokers. This mis-classification is likely to just "underestimate the association of cigarette smoking on adverse COVID-19 outcomes," they say. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Experts say this may be because of smoking's lasting effects.

Doctor listening patient's heartbeat at hospital room
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Study co-author Katherine E. Lowe, Msc, a researcher at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, said in a statement that both a current smoking habit or the potential after-effects of being a smoker could increase the risk of severe COVID. "This may be due to damage to the lungs from smoking, but may also be due to other diseases associated with smoking," she explained.

According to Lowe, smoking can cause various health conditions such as heart disease, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that all three of these health conditions are possible risk factors for severe illness from the coronavirus. And for more on the future of the pandemic, COVID Researchers Just Issued Their Bleakest 2021 Prediction Yet.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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