Blown up in smoke: Young adults who vape at greater risk of COVID symptoms – Harvard Health Blog

COVID-19 has swept the world, infecting millions of people and leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths. Substantial resources have been invested in understanding individual vulnerability in order to protect those most at risk. Age is the most frequently cited risk factor; 75% of deaths in the United States are in people over the age of 65, while younger people tend to have milder symptoms. In addition to age, the Centers for Disease Control has compiled a list of health factors that increase vulnerability, most of which are chronic conditions that typically alter health status. The easiest editable The risk factor for severe infection with COVID-19 is the consumption of substances inhaled by smoking or vaping.

Vaping and smoking increase risk of COVID symptoms in young adults

A new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health used national data to estimate the toll of smoking and vaping on the risk of COVID-19 in young adults. The team found that overall, nearly one in three young adults aged 18 to 25 in the United States is at increased risk, although that number drops to one in six among those who do not smoke and do not vape. In other words, smoking and vaping double the number of young adults in the risk category.

Categorization of risks is more than a theoretical concern. Both smoking and vaping cause lung damage that threatens the lung reserve. Substance use can also weaken the immune system, which reduces the ability to fight infection. A recent study found that teens and young adults who smoke and vape were five times more likely to report symptoms of COVID-19, and seven times more likely to be diagnosed, compared to their peers. A combined analysis using data from multiple studies found that among people infected with COVID-19, those with a history of smoking were twice as likely to have disease progression.

Risk-taking during adolescence could mean higher risk of COVID

During adolescence and young adulthood, developing brains are hardwired to seek important neurological rewards, resulting in the risk-taking associated with this stage of life. Most young adults enjoy good health and a strong physiological reserve, which allows them to tolerate the insults of substance use without noticeable impact, until the cumulative effects accumulate in the middle of it. adulthood – or at least what was generally assumed to be the case before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unlike other risk factors for serious COVID-19 illness, smoking and vaping also inherently increase the risk of transmission of the respiratory virus. Smoking and vaping are often social activities for young adults. Both involve forced exhalation, which can propel droplets that carry viral particles further than breathing at rest. The Canadian government recommends that people stay six feet from each other and avoid sharing products, although people who meet to smoke or vape may not adhere to government guidelines. It goes without saying that smoking and vaping are incompatible with wearing a mask. These factors combine to pose a real threat in places where young people congregate – including colleges and universities. Schools would be wise to institute strict no-smoking and no-vaping rules and vigorously enforce them as part of a COVID-19 containment plan.

Young people may be overconfident about the health risks

Young people tend to overestimate their own ability to control a situation and see themselves as invincible; many are inclined to believe that they can quit smoking whenever they want. A little extra confidence can come in handy when making the transition to adulthood, even if it is based on a mistaken assessment of one’s own abilities. But the same trend can cause real problems in this pandemic. The idea that young people are safe from COVID-19 is incorrect; According to an initial CDC report, one in five infected people aged 20 to 44 are hospitalized, and 2 to 4% require treatment in an intensive care unit. The best thing we can do for young people is to promote accurate information about their real risks. More than any other group, young adults capable of quitting smoking and vaping have the power to flatten their own risk curves.

Support young people who want to quit vaping and smoking

Parents and healthcare professionals also have a role to play here. Many young people who use vaping products have seriously considered quitting, but attempts do not always hold up. Vaping is so new that specific treatments have yet to be rigorously tested, but there are effective treatments for nicotine use disorders. Healthcare professionals can prescribe medications that help ease withdrawal symptoms and prevent cravings, and counselors can provide support during the process. Parents can help by encouraging their children to get help. For people who are trying to quit using nicotine, a little help can go a long way.

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Jothi Venkat

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