It Can Start With A Cough

By Shirin Nargis Fatima Ahmad

Respiratory infections are headline news these days, with the new disease Covid-19, caused by a coronavirus, taking centre stage.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses which get their name because they look like they’re wearing crowns (divas, I know!), and settle in people’s airways, where they multiply and cause infection.

The most common symptoms are fever (high temperature), tiredness and a new continuous cough. Some people may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. These symptoms are usually mild, but in some cases can cause severe illness which will need to be treated with medical assistance. 

Not everyone develops the severe illness, but those who are elderly or have a long-term health condition have an increased risk of doing so. It’s important to know what we can do to lower our risk of getting the disease. 

First and foremost, following the Public Health advice is imperative to protect yourself and your loved ones.Everyone must stay alert to stay safe, this means you must:

  • Stay at home as much as possible
  • Work from home if you can
  • Limit contact with other people
  • Keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible)
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Self-isolate if you or anyone in your household has symptoms.

stay alert

There are things you can do to help reduce the risk of you and anyone you live with getting ill with coronavirus.

  • Wash you hands with soap and water often - do this for at least 20 seconds 

  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available 

  • Wash your hands as soon as you get back home 

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze

  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards 

  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

It is also equally important to understand what aspects of our lifestyles will increase our risk of infectious diseases. Cigarette smoking has been known to change lung structure and function, and also affect how well our immune system works. As a result, people who smoke are at a higher risk of getting lung infections. In a time where the coronavirus poses an increased risk to our health, being smoke free could lower your risk of infection.

Being smoke free also brings a range of other health benefits, from improving circulation to helping you breathe better. Research also shows that those who quit smoking report being happier than people who were still smoking. What’s more, you can notice many of the benefits of being smoke free in the first 8 hours, as shown in the animation below. 

benefits of being smoke free


You are three times more likely to quit smoking when you have the support of a Stop Smoking Advisor and access to medication.

Looking for support? ONE YOU Westminster will support you to be smoke free with 6 one to one sessions with our stop smoking advisors and provide you with 12 weeks of medication to help you quit smoking for good.

What benefit are you looking forward to experiencing? 

Get Started with ONE YOU Westminster

Be smoke free today with the borough's free integrated healthy lifestyle service

⦁    World Health Organisation. Q&A on coronavirus (COVID019). 2020.
⦁    Arcavi, L. and Benowitz, N., 2004. Cigarette Smoking and Infection. Archives of Internal Medicine, 164(20), p.2206.
⦁ 2020. Coronavirus (COVID-19). [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 23 March 2020].
⦁    Royal College of Physicians, 2018. Treating Tobacco Dependency In The NHS. Hiding in plain sight. London: The Lavenham Press. 
⦁    BBC News. 2020. Coronavirus: Advice For People With Health Conditions. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 23 March 2020].
⦁    Shahab, L. and West, R. (2012). Differences in happiness between smokers, ex-smokers and never smokers: cross-sectional findings from a national household survey. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 121(1-2), pp.38-44

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