Coronavirus: lung health associated with COVID-19 risk of death

What smoking and lung sick people should pay attention to

The disease COVID-19 caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus can significantly affect the lungs. People whose lung health is affected by factors such as lung disease or smoking are at higher risk for more severe COVID-19 courses. What should those affected look out for?

Dr. Gregory A. Poland is an internist at the renowned Mayo Clinic in the USA. The specialist summarizes the current state of knowledge on the subject of lung health and COVID-19 and answers, among other things, the question of whether smokers and people with underlying diseases of the lungs should take more precautions than people with healthy lungs.

People with poor lung health should be careful

"You can reduce your risk of developing COVID-19 by using infection prevention techniques and carefully following other guidelines to slow the spread of the disease," the internist said in a Mayo Clinic message.

When does COVID-19 become life-threatening?

COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory disease with symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, pneumonia often occurs, which often requires ventilation in an intensive care unit. In some cases, breathing difficulties associated with pneumonia make COVID-19 life-threatening, warns Dr. Poland.

What effects can smoking have?

"Poor lung health appears to play a role in COVID-19 deaths," the doctor explains. Smoking can have an adverse effect. Current study results indicate that smokers are more susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection because smoking weakens the body's defenses against some bacteria and viruses. But other factors also play a role here, such as age and the presence of underlying diseases.

Mortality is not only increased in the case of lung diseases

Data from China show that the COVID-19 death rate in this country is around two percent overall. In Germany, the death rate is currently around 0.8 percent (as of April 1, 2020). In China, people who had lung disease prior to infection rose to six percent in China. In people with cardiovascular diseases as much as ten percent, in diabetes in seven percent and in hypertension to six percent.

Protective measures should not only be followed by risk groups

"Regardless of whether you smoke or not, there are specific measures you can take to protect yourself from the virus," emphasizes the internist. So the cough and sneeze should always be done in a disposable towel or in the crook of the arm. In addition, the hands should be washed regularly and touch the face as little as possible. If there are no options for washing hands, a hand disinfectant with at least 60 percent alcohol should be carried.

"Stay home when you are sick and insist that other people in your household do the same," Dr. recommends Poland. In addition, personal interactions with people who appear ill should be avoided as far as possible.

Treatment focuses on symptom control

There are currently no antiviral drugs or vaccines against COVID-19. Treatment focuses on symptom control. "All claims that a drug, herbal preparation or other substance is effective against COVID-19 have not been scientifically proven," emphasizes Dr. He points out in detail that current information about the pandemic should only be obtained from reliable and trustworthy sources. (vb)

Read also: Can dietary supplements protect against coronaviruses?

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Mayo Clininc: Poor lung health appears to play a role in deaths related to COVID-19 (03/31/2020),

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