It is widely known that the elderly and the immunocompromised are at the highest risk of being severely impacted by COVID-19, a virus that targets the lungs and respiratory system. The younger demographic, including teenagers, are not generally considered as being threatened by this disease. Even if teenagers do contract the virus, it is assumed that they will only experience mild symptoms and will recover quickly. However, vaping, an activity especially popular among teenagers, may increase their vulnerability to COVID-19.
Can Vaping Increase COVID-19 Susceptibility
Vaping and other similar activities such as smoking are well-known to cause damage to the lungs. Studies have shown that a certain chemical contained in e-cigarettes, diacetyl, may cause inflammation of the air-sacs, a condition called popcorn lung. Even without COVID-19 playing a role in a person’s health, vaping can already pose major risks. Soon before the COVID-19 pandemic arose, there was another outbreak of lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, thousands of people were hospitalized with lung injuries most likely caused by vaping during that outbreak.
While the health impacts of smoking have been heavily researched and are generally common knowledge at this point, the same cannot be said about vaping. This can be attributed to it being a relatively new trend that escalated too fast for its effects to be clearly outlined. Still, authorities urge teenagers and adults alike to avoid it because despite the lack of information, it is clear that they do pose a health risk to a certain extent.
Like vaping, not much is known about COVID-19. Still, it has already been established to cause significant lung inflammation. Therefore vaping and smoking may increase the severity of an infection, because the lungs will already be weakened. If someone who vapes does contract COVID-19, their symptoms might be much worse, and the chances of a complete recovery are lowered because their respiratory system might be compromised already.
Vaping Linked to Increased Severity of COVID-19 Infections
As this situation is relatively new, few studies have deeply investigated the link connecting vaping to increased severity of COVID-19 infections. However, one study found that of 78 patients infected with COVID-19, those with a history of smoking were fourteen times more likely to develop pneumonia, suggesting that those who smoke are more severely impacted by COVID-19. In addition, studies conducted with animals have shown that after being exposed to aerosol from e-cigarettes and then infected with certain types of bacteria, survival rates were lowered. It has also been proven that vaping can cause the activity of immune-response genes in nasal cells to be suppressed. Many studies have already demonstrated how vaping can impair the immune system’s ability to fight off respiratory infections, which is exactly what COVID-19 is.
Vaping Among Teens and Risk of COVID-19
Vaping is especially prevalent in the teen demographic and is increasingly popular among high school students. In 2019, it was found that almost 30% of high school students in the United States had used e-cigarettes, a percentage that was only at 11% in 2017. A whole generation is becoming reliant on these products, which puts them at higher risk of getting severely impacted by COVID-19. Still, the risks COVID-19 poses to this younger generation are generally going unnoticed.
COVID-19 and vaping are similar threats in that not much is known about either of them, but both are recognized as possibly life-threatening. The safest choice to make in this time of uncertainty is to avoid anything that may cause the situation to be more dangerous, and until more information surfaces, that includes vaping.
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Well-written and researched article Trisha! I learned something new today about vaping and its effects on COVID-19. Thank you!