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This One Thing Can Hospitalize You With Coronavirus, Says Study

A new study has linked one bad habit to severe coronavirus complications.

Soon after the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in Wuhan, China, it became clear that age is a risk factor when it comes to the highly infectious and potentially deadly virus. However, as time as progressed, it has been evidenced that a later birthdate does not make someone immune to contacting, developing a severe infection, or dying as a result of the virus. And, a new study led by researchers at UC San Francisco Benioff Children's Hospitals has found that up to one-third of all men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 actually have a "medical vulnerability" to the virus. 

In short, age isn't going to shield you from coronavirus. 

The study, published Monday in the Journal of Adolescent Health, analyzed data from around 8,400 people, finding the "medical vulnerability" was 33 percent for males and 30 percent for females. Of all the medical risks that made them vulnerable—including heart conditions, diabetes, current asthma, immune conditions (such as lupus, gout, rheumatoid arthritis), liver conditions, obesity—smoking was the most impactful. And yes, that includes vaping and e-cigarettes. They found that for non-smokers, medical vulnerability stood at 16.1 percent, while the number jumped to 31.5 percent for the full sample of 8,405 young adults, which included smokers.

Smoking Can Increase the Severity of an Infection

"Recent evidence indicates that smoking is associated with a higher likelihood of COVID-19 progression, including increased illness severity, ICU admission or death," first author Sally Adams, Ph.D., of the UCSF Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, explained in a release accompanying the study. "Smoking may have significant effects in young adults, who typically have low rates for most chronic diseases."

She also noted that recent research has found that young adults are starting to smoke at higher rates than adolescents, a reversal of previous trends.

Using data from the National Health Interview Survey, researchers determined that over the previous 30 days, 10.9 percent had smoked a cigarette, 4.5 percent had smoked a cigar product and 7.2 percent had smoked an e-cigarette. Furthermore, the total number of smokers—1,664 or 19.8 percent – was higher than the number of people with asthma (8.6 percent), obesity (3 percent) and immune disorders (2.4 percent). 1.2 percent of them had diabetes, 0.6 percent a liver condition and 0.5 percent a heart condition.

Smoking Makes You More Likely to End Up in the ICU

"The risk of being medically vulnerable to severe disease is halved when smokers are removed from the sample," senior author Charles Irwin Jr., MD, of the UCSF Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine added. "Efforts to reduce smoking and e-cigarette use among young adults would likely lower their vulnerability to severe disease."

Other recent data has found that smokers are most likely to end up in the ICU with a severe coronavirus infection than non-smokers. 

As for yourself: To stay safe during this pandemic, wash your hands with soap and water frequently, or clean your hands using an alcohol-based sanitizer; maintain a distance of at least six feet between yourself and other people; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; wear a face mask when possible; avoid crowds; and don't smoke! And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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