COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses
In an uncertain world, one thing is certain – there has never been a better time to quit smoking.
COVID-19 has changed so many aspects of daily life that it can feel like you are losing control. But for smokers, there is one thing you can control. You can choose to quit smoking and reduce your likelihood of smoking-related harms. And there has never been a better time to do it.
The best thing you can do for your health now, or any time, is quit smoking.
We are already living with the threat of the respiratory illness COVID-19, but as we head into the colder winter months, other respiratory illnesses such as influenza are lurking in the wings. Viral respiratory infections are often more serious in smokers because of the thick mucus that collects in a smoker’s lungs, clogging them and making them susceptible to infection. And because smoking also affects the immune system, it’s harder for the body to fight the infection.
But you can help your body fight respiratory infections by quitting smoking.
Why can respiratory illnesses be worse for smokers?
Due to smoking’s harmful effects on both the respiratory and immune systems, smoking increases the incidence, duration and severity of infections from respiratory illnesses. Smoking damages the lungs and increases the vulnerability of the respiratory system to infection.
When a smoker already has lung damage and contracts a respiratory infection, they can become particularly unwell. For example, a smoker with reduced lung function may already be struggling with breathlessness and a persistent cough. When a respiratory bug is added into the mix, they can become severely unwell and the illness can last longer than usual.
Many smokers are likely to be feeling increased stress at this time, which could lead to them smoking more. But smoking can actually increase levels of stress hormones in the longer term. Quitting smoking is the best way to break the cycle of smoking and stress. For more information about how smoking actually increases stress, visit the web page – The myth about smoking and stress.
Reducing your likelihood of smoking-related illness
The best way to reduce your risk of any smoking-related illness is to quit smoking. That is often easier said than done, but you don’t have to go it alone. The Quit your way page provides a number of quitting options and strategies so you can choose a method that is right for you. You can also call Quitline on 13 78 48 and speak to a trained professional or download the My QuitBuddy app. And GPs, pharmacists, family members and friends are often great sources of support.
Don’t forget – wash your hands thoroughly, regularly
We should all be washing our hands thoroughly and regularly. But the hand-to-mouth action of smoking means people who smoke touch their face and mouth more often. If you are a smoker, this may leave you more vulnerable to infection. To reduce the likelihood of virus transmission, make washing your hands before and after a cigarette part of your smoking routine, and remember to wipe down frequently used surfaces.
Don’t share tobacco or smoking products
It’s important that you don’t share any type of tobacco or smoking product (for example, cigarettes, e-cigarettes or shisha/waterpipes) as this can increase the risk of spreading infection.