Beware: smoking, alcohol, impact adversely on Covid-19 patients | Sunday Observer
Medi snips:

Beware: smoking, alcohol, impact adversely on Covid-19 patients

5 September, 2021

The National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) last week warned that alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking will affect the immunity of users, if infected with the Covid virus.

The Sunday Observer asked Toxicologist and former Chairman of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board (NDDCB) of Sri Lanka, Emeritus Professor of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology of the University of Colombo, Dr. Ravindra Fernando to explain to those especially infected by the Covid -19 virus, how alcohol and cigarettes could compromise their health further, starting with alcohol.

What are the toxic ingredients they contain that can harm a person’s health in general we asked.

Replying he said, “Long-term alcohol misuse is associated with liver and heart disease, cancer, and nervous system damage as well as psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety, and antisocial personality disorder. Alcohol consumption can cause a number of marked changes in behaviour. Even low doses significantly impair judgment and coordination. It can induce feelings of relaxation and tranquility, suppress anxiety, and in some, inspire feelings of confidence. Intoxication occurs because the liver is unable to metabolise more than one ounce of alcohol every hour. Therefore, when a person consumes more alcohol than the body can metabolise, intoxication occurs. Intoxication can generally last anywhere from one to 12 hours, and the after-effects (hang-over) of intoxication can last 24 hours or more.”

What happens to Covid infected patients, if they consume alcohol? we queried. His response was, “Alcohol makes it harder for the immune system to defend the body against harmful germs. Alcohol has diverse adverse effects throughout the body, including on all cells of the immune system that lead to increased risk of serious infections like Covid-19.”

Asked to comment on the harmful ingredients that that can undermine one’s health in the short run and the long run, he said, “Smoking is a known risk factor for many respiratory infections and increases the severity of respiratory diseases. A review of studies by public health experts convened by WHO in 2020 found that smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with Covid-19, compared to non-smokers”

He warned that smoking could cause a wide range of serious diseases , “Smoking can damage every organ of the body. It can lead to cancer of the head or neck or lungs. It can cause leukemia and cervical cancer, affect the pancreas, stomach, colon and bladder. It can lead to stroke, blindness, gum infection, aortic rupture, heart disease, pneumonia, hardening of the arteries, chronic lung disease and asthma.”

Asked if passive smokers can also pose a threat to patients with Covid, he said, “Passive tobacco smoke exposure in children and young people during the Covid-19 pandemic is harmful to children and young people. They inhale double the amount of dust compared with adults, thus inhaling more smoke containing dust particles.

When asked to respond to the allegation that at present the majority of people are in the habit of using various drugs to improve their immunity against the deadly Covid and deadly variants and some mistakenly believe that alcohol and cigarette smoking can also protect them, he said “ It’s a myth. Neither alcohol or smoking can protect them against this virus or any disease . They will merely compound any illness they already have”.

To a report that the NATA Chairman has allegedly urged the Excise Commissioner General to personally visit the vicinity of liquor outlets in Colombo city and suburban areas where the virus has spread the most, even after the travel restriction period is over and inform relevant authorities to cancel their licenses, his comment was, “It is a timely step ” Asked for his comments and suggestions as former Chairperson of the NDDCB, to end the tobacco and alcohol menace, his reply was, “ Taxes should be raised. But implementation and stricter penalties are also a must. ”

Donate blood and save lives – NBTS Director’s plea

The world is experiencing a serious shortage of blood donations. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Red Cross Federation (IFRC) has sent a world wide plea for people with no serious health issues to donate their blood. Following a similar call for more blood donations the Sunday Observer spoke to the Director, National Blood Transfusion Services Dr Lakshman Edirisinghe to ask him what the situation was in Sri Lanka. How much blood does the Blood bank have at the moment?, we asked. Is there a shortage ? If so by how much ? we asked.

His reply was, “To maintain an uninterrupted service related to NBTS it is required to maintain around 15000 blood unit island wide at a given time, but at the moment we have only a stock around 6000-7000. Thus, continuing of relevant services based on the demand is a challenging task. So yes, there is an obvious shortage of blood stocks at the moment.

Was there a difference in the supply and demand for blood during the pre- Covid time and the post- Covid period ? we asked. In reply he said, “ During the pre-Covid era NBTS collectively managed to fulfill the transfusion requirements and its related services to reach up to the demand which was around 1500units of red cell concentrate per day island wide.

During the Covid period even though the demand for transfusion related services reduced to 1000 red cell units per day we are facing an ongoing challenge due to the low stocks levels, irrespective of the many strategies implemented by us to collect blood.

To our question as to who can donate blood , he listed the following persons:

1. Age 18-55, if regular donor up to 60 years, weight more than 50kg, hemoglobin more than12.5g/dl hemoglobin levels are checked at the donation site.

2. Donors who are not under long-term treatment for diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and so on.

3 Non-pregnant healthy donors.

Asked if those who had Covid but had fully recovered could also donate blood, he said, “ A person can donate after 7 days receiving any type of vaccine and 28 days after fully recovery of Covid 19 infection.

To our query as to where the collecting centres for blood donations were his answer was

“ There are about 84 blood banks islandwide where we have in house (walk in) donation facilities where a donor can directly walk in and donate. A donor can also donate blood to any mobile donations campaigns which are conducted by many of the hospitals blood bank throughout the country. The National blood Center Narahenpita also has a specially designed unit for in house donations operating from 8am to 6pm daily, in addition to mobile donations campaigns daily.

When questioned if there was a limit to a person donating blood per day he said “ There are no such limits. During the working hours eligible donors will be accepted for donations.

However, we have implemented other systems to avoid overcrowding. Donors can call the given hotline numbers and book an appointment island wide.

There are, also NBTS health website for booking appointments online island wide. Hotlines for blood donations are 0115332153-4. Also anyone can register via the site and book an appointment after which donors will receive a confirmation text message with the time and venue.

“How safe is it ? Medi snips asked expressing the fears of members of the public that the blood they receive may be tainted . His answer was, “ NBTS is based on 100% voluntary non- remunerated donors who are considered as the safest.

All donors will also have to sign a declaration form and undergo detailed counseling process by a trained medical officer . Finally collected blood will be screened for mandatory significant transfusion transmitted infections.