CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – New data from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment reveals young people may be more impacted by coronavirus than initially thought. In Colorado, a third of positive COVID-19 patients are under the age of 40.
Health experts at Centura Health are now questioning whether lung damage from vaping could contribute to the severity of the illness, particularly among young people who have no underlying medical conditions. Family Medicine expert Dr. Judd Dawson said while it’s too soon to say for certain, there is a small amount of literature that may pertain to vaping and coronavirus.
“A 2019 study looked at the specific impact of vaping on immune function. Among its female subjects, researchers discovered their immune system wasn’t as strong post vaping, making them more susceptible to flu,” said Dr. Dawson. “Interestingly, the same level of immune suppression did not happen among traditional smokers in the studies.”
The Centers for Disease Control has connected vaping to a lung injury called EVALI, which stands for “E-cigarette or Vaping Use-Associated Lung Injury.” According to the CDC, EVALI has been linked to 2,807 hospitalizations or deaths as of Feb. 18.
“Bottom line, the coronavirus attacks the lungs, if those deep pockets and tissue are already damaged, recovery from a COVID-19 infection becomes much harder,” Dr. Dawson advised.
The CDC recently reported a surge in teen vaping to more than one in four high school students. In Colorado, Boulder and Pueblo county report e-cigarette use among 36% of teens.
Dr. Dawson said now is the time to have the conversation with loved ones and consider the added risk of vaping in the era of COVID-19.
“In theory, having a weakened immune system, and lung damage, could predispose individuals to a more severe manifestation of COVID-19. It’s the pulmonary disease associated with coronavirus that leads to the need for ventilators. And by some reports, it is the leading cause of death from the coronavirus,” said Dr. Dawson.
What can you do if you’re an electronic cigarette smoker? Dr. Dawson says stopping may give your lungs a chance to heal, but don’t replace vaping with cigarettes.
“There are reports of smokers in China getting pneumonia more commonly. If you need help stopping, talk to your physician, preferably by a virtual visit, to get a prescription for a smoking cessation aid, or looking into a smoking cessation program,” said Dr. Dawson.
Dr. Dawson also recommends plenty of rest, a well-balanced diet and good hand hygiene to stay healthy amid the coronavirus pandemic. She advises patients to call their doctor if they develop a new cough or shortness of breath.