COVID-19 – smokers more than twice as likely to attend hospital than non-smokers

Smokers who test positive for COVID-19 are more than twice as likely to be hospitalised for the virusSmokers who test positive for COVID-19 are more than twice as likely to be hospitalised for the virus, it has emerged.

This is according to fresh research by King’s College London, which investigated the link between smoking and coronavirus severity.

Researchers looked at data from the ZOE COVID symptom study app. Around 11% of those using the app were smokers.

While more than one third of users reported not feeling physically well during the study, current smokers were 14% more likely to develop the identified symptoms associated with the virus. For example, persistent cough, fever and shortness of breath.

Additionally, they were more likely to have a higher symptom burden than non-smokers. They were 29% more likely to report more than five symptoms associated with COVID-19 and 50% more likely to report more than 10. These included skipping meals, loss of smell, fatigue, and muscle pain.

Reduce the burden

They were also found to be more than double as likely as non-smokers to attend hospital.

As a result, the researchers recommend the inclusion of a smoking cessation strategy when addressing COVID-19. Reduction in smoking rates, they argued, could also reduce the burden on the health system from other smoking-related conditions.

Claire Steves is lead researcher and a consultant physician. She said: ‘As rates of COVID-19 continue to rise and the NHS edges towards capacity, it’s important to do all we can to reduce its effects and find ways to reduce hospital admissions.

‘Our analysis shows that smoking increases a person’s likelihood to attend hospitals. So stopping smoking is one of the things we can do to reduce the health consequences of the disease.’

Dr Mario Falchi is reader for the School of Life Course Sciences. ‘Some reports have suggested a protective effect of smoking on COVID-19 risk,’ he said.

‘However, studies in this area can easily be affected by biases in sampling, participation and response. Our results clearly show that smokers are at increased risk of suffering from a wider range of COVID-19 symptoms than non-smokers.’

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