What's Going Around: Smoking can increase risk of lung infections

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - With all the infections and respiratory illnesses we are seeing, one group that is at higher risk is smokers.

Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the US with nearly a half million deaths annually and over 40,000 deaths annually from 2nd hand smoke.

We live in an area of the country with some of the highest smoking rates in the US. Unfortunately, the winter means infections and with that, smokers and those with chronic lung disease are at higher risk.

Not only are smokers at increased risk of complications from infectious diseases, they are also at higher risk for catching them.

The biggest risk is lung related infections, not only for the potential of serious pathogens, but because chronic smokers often have diminished respiratory reserves which means that any infection that impacts lung ventilation can put the person at high risk for low oxygen levels and inability to clear carbon dioxide. It also tends to prolong illnesses and can increase the risk of secondary infections.

Smokers need to make sure all of their immunizations are up to date, but especially the annual flu vaccine and pneumonia shot. Also, make sure all your other lung medications are filled and available.

The best options for now and long term is smoking cessation. Damage may already be done, but cessation will decrease infection, cancer, and lung disease risk moving forward.

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