By Dr Hirenappa Udnur, Consultant - Pulmonologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Hebbal (A unit of Manipal Hospitals)
The lungs were not given the importance as they ought to be until the second wave of Covid 19 surfaced. They are often taken for granted. The wellness of lungs is given priority only when any complication arises. Lungs are the vital organ in our body that converts the oxygen from the air which we inhale and transfer it to the bloodstream. For many years healthcare professionals have stressed on the importance of maintaining healthy lungs and advising people to quit smoking. However, many have not paid heed to this advice.
All of us are aware that SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease obstructs the respiratory system majorly affecting the lungs. This infection is certainly testing our lungs. As lungs play a major role in the overall working of the body, it becomes very crucial to ensure lung health to put up a fight against this infectious disease.
COVID-19, can cause lung complications like pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, and in some fatal cases, total collapse of the lungs. In cases of pneumonia, the air sacs in the lungs are filled with fluid and the valves of the lungs get inflamed resulting in difficulty in breathing and severe cough. Many people recover from pneumonia without much affect to the lungs. But in cases of pneumonia due to Covid 19, people face severe breathing difficulties which takes longer time to recover putting an extra burden on the lungs. If pneumonia progresses it can lead to acute respiratory diseases in which more of the air sacs will get filled up with the fluid leaking from the blood vessels in the lungs. This can lead to severe shortness of breath.
As Covid 19 infection takes respiratory route to enter a person, the burden on the lungs are phenomenal. This burden on the lungs increases among people who smoke. As the smoke moves into the respiratory tract, more soluble gases are adsorbed and particles are deposited in the airways and alveoli. This in the longer run can lead to severe problems related to the lungs. Smoking can increase the chances of COPD among people leading to faster decline of lung functioning. The chemicals in the cigarrates can also cause irreversible lung damage. In addition, smoking can destroy the cilia or tiny hairs that are present in the airways. These hairs keep dirt and mucus out of your lungs. When these cilia are destroyed, one can develop a chronic cough that is often seen in long-term or daily smokers.
Though there is no proof that smoking can make a person vulnerable to develop Covid 19 or the severity of the infection increases if the person is smoking, it is a known fact that both smoking and Covid 19 infection is putting an extra burden on the lungs. As the lungs of a smoker is already in a bad shape, Covid 19 can further worsen its health. Therefore, it is advised to quit smoking and take all precautions to safeguard the lungs.
Two functions determine the overall health of the lung health - Lung capacity and lung function. While lung capacity is depending on the genes, making the lungs function properly is up to us. Here are a few tips you can follow to have healthy lungs.
At least 30 minutes of exercise on a daily basis is imperative for adults to avoid any lung distress. Physical activity that makes you breathe heavily. It increases the flow of oxygen in your bloodstream that then increases airflow to your muscles, heart, and lungs. Running, brisk walking, cycling, swimming are the few suggested exercises.
Choice of food is very important for lung and immune system health. It is being noticed that people with underlying ailments have been affected badly due to corona. It could be due to Chronic inflammation. There are many food that assist the body with decreasing inflammation in the airways. Ensure to consume proper nutrition, particularly food high in antioxidants like fruits and vegetables.
It is not only lung cancer but inhaling anything other than air into your lungs causes them to become inflamed. This can lead to mucus build-up which impacts the lungs ability to process oxygen into the bloodstream. For a person already having lung damage, treatment becomes a factor and the recovery may get delayed.
Maintain a good oral health. Avoid the buildup of plaque and infection in the mouth. These infections could also affect the lungs.
With Covid 19 second wave affecting both young and older generation, the number of hospitalization and people needing oxygen support has been increased. We are at a juncture where paying attention to our lungs health and working towards its betterment gains utmost importance.