Your Lungs and COVID-19: What You Need to Know

Lung Health During COVID-19

You know the basics about the novel coronavirus and the disease it can cause, COVID-19. It’s more infectious than other such viruses — and more dangerous. But do you know what Covid-19 does to your lungs?

COVID-19 can cause severe lung damage and make breathing difficult, even after the disease passes. This is a scary thought, but by learning more about your personal level of risk, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions about your lifestyle and protecting your lungs.

What does Covid-do to your lungs?

Johns Hopkins Medicine, the renowned health organization, states that “COVID-19 can cause lasting lung damage.” It can lead to pneumonia and even ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome). Plus, other viruses or bacteria can attack the body while it’s busy fighting off COVID-19 — what’s known as a “superinfection.”

“After a serious case of COVID-19, a patient’s lungs can recover, but not overnight,” according to Johns Hopkins. Healing can take months, a year — or longer.

Are smokers more prone to getting coronavirus disease?

Touching fingers to lips while smoking increases risk of coronavirus infection

Yes! For one thing, smoking weakens your immune system. And studies suggest that smokers with the novel coronavirus can contract more severe forms of COVID-19, and are more likely to die from the disease.

Smokers also increase their risk of contracting COVID-19 by bringing their hands near their lips while smoking. Keep in mind that this is a bad time to be sharing cigarettes or pipes with others. 

So, if you smoke, you now have another good reason to quit. But what if you quit years ago?

If I have a smoking history, am I at higher risk for COVID-19?

Former smokers are more likely to have a lung disease or reduced lung capacity. These increase your risk of serious illnesses such as COVID-19.

If you’re concerned about your lung health, talk to your doctor about getting a Lung CT. This can help put your mind at ease about your level of risk during the current outbreak. Knowing how healthy your lungs are can help you make informed lifestyle choices.

Yearly Lung CT scans are recommended for individuals aged 55-80 who have a history of heavy smoking and either smoke now or have quit within the last 15 years. Heavy smoking means a smoking history of 30 packs a year or more. 30 pack years means smoking a pack of cigarettes every day for 30 years, or the equivalent.

Lung CT recommendation for people with smoking history

Premier Diagnostic Imaging offers an advanced, 64-slice CT scan that can detect lung diseases in their early stages. Qualified technologists conduct our CT scans, and board-certified radiologists interpret the results.

Note: Premier Diagnostic Imaging does NOT test for coronavirus or COVID-19. The Lung CT looks for early signs of lung disease. Lung disease puts individuals at high risk for COVID-19, and all types of lung diseases combined form the third leading cause of death in the United States.

What if I already have lung problems?

People with medical conditions like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, or lung cancer should take extra precautions against coronavirus and COVID-19. Monitor your condition carefully and take all your required medications as prescribed.

These links provide information about COVID-19 and specific illnesses:

How can I improve my lung health?

 If you still smoke, the best thing you can do for your lungs is to quit smoking.

Exercise, reducing excess mucus buildup, and minimizing exposure to allergens are all positive steps for strengthening your respiratory system, according to Dr. Robert Eitches, an allergist and immunologist.

Improving the air quality inside your home can reduce lung irritation. Use fans in the kitchen and bathroom, and open windows to bring in fresh air. This can help control lung irritants like mold, mildew, fumes and smoke particles. In fact, we just installed an air purifier at Premier Diagnostic Imaging.

Learn more — and worry less

Get informed. Learn what COVID-19 can do to your lungs and make choices that will improve your lung health. A few lifestyle changes can go far in minimizing your risk of infection, and some people are at higher risk than others. If you have a history of heavy smoking, ask your doctor if a Lung CT is right for you, especially if you already experience signs of unhealthy lungs.

The more you know about the novel coronavirus and your risk, the easier you’ll be able to navigate difficult lifestyle choices. We’re learning more every day, so follow trusted sources like the CDC (the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) for the latest information.

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