COVID-19 is an infectious disease that is being caused by a novel strain of the coronavirus. Since it is a new virus, research is still ongoing on who are the most affected, what the risk factors are, and how the disease progresses in different people. Like any other disease, certain people are at a higher risk of developing a severe infection if they catch COVID-19. Read on to find out about what can be done to protect high-risk individuals from getting infected with COVID-19.
Who Are At High Risk of Contracting COVID-19 Infection (Coronavirus)?
Based on what information is currently available, older adults and people of any age who have an underlying health condition are believed to be at a higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are the criteria of people who are believed to be at a high risk of having a severe infection from COVID-19:(1)
- People who are 65 years and older
- People who are living in a long-term care facility or a nursing home
- People of any age who have an underlying health condition, especially if the condition is not well managed. These include:
- People who have serious heart-related conditions(2)
- People with hypertension(3)
- People with a compromised or weakened immune system – There are many conditions and circumstances that can compromise your immune system, including smoking, immune deficiencies, cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplant, prolonged use of corticosteroids, and other immune weakening drugs, poorly managed HIV or AIDS, etc.
- People with diabetes(3)
- People with moderate to severe asthma(4)
- People with chronic lung disease
- People with liver disease(5)
- People with chronic kidney disease who are undergoing dialysis(6)
What To Do To Protect High-Risk Individuals From Contracting COVID-19 Infection (Coronavirus)?
If you are at high risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19 infection, either due to your age or due to a chronic pre-existing health problem, then it is essential that you take the proper precautions to decrease the risk of falling sick with the virus.
Here are some necessary steps you can take:
- Stay at home as much as possible, only step out to buy essentials like groceries or medicines.
- Wash your hands frequently, especially when you are coming from outside.
- Take daily precautions to ensure that you keep enough distance between yourself and others. It is recommended that you should stay at least six feet away from another person, roughly about two arm lengths.
- Stay away from people who are sick. If you are a high-risk individual and a family member has contracted the disease, then ensure that the proper precautions are taken while caring for the ill member. If possible, ask another family member to help or seek to hospitalize the patient.
- Stock up on essential supplies to reduce the need to step out of the house.
- It is better to have food and medicine delivered and left outside the door. Many countries have put in place special services for high-risk individuals and the elderly to ensure that all essentials are delivered at their doorstep.
- Avoid undertaking any non-essential air travel and cruise travel.
- Clean and disinfect all regularly touched surfaces, including kettles, phones, doorknobs, etc. This can be cleaned using any regular cleaning products.
- Clean and disinfect your groceries when you get them.
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. Make sure to do this for at least 20 seconds.
- Anyone who comes into your home should also wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
- If soap and water are not available, then use a hand sanitizer.
- If you are going outside, ensure to keep disinfectant wipes or a sanitizer.
- Try to practice one form of exercise each day from within the confines of your home.
- You should clean a shared bathroom every time you use it, especially wipe down he surfaces you have touched.
- It is prudent to prepare a hospital bag. Keep a list of the medicines you are on and your file ready in case you have to go to the hospital. In high-risk cases, it helps doctors to know what medications you currently are taking.
- Do not stop taking your prescribed medication without consulting your doctor.
- Do not have visitors in your home, including family and friends, unless they are providing essential care to you.
There is no doubt that for high-risk individuals, such conditions and situations may lead to increased stress during such challenging times. Here are some things you can do to keep yourself in good spirits and also to manage your anxiety:
- Take care of yourself by indulging in some calming activities such as meditation, taking deep breaths, and stretching.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals and exercise regularly.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Avoid over drinking, drugs, and smoking.
- Make time to unwind by doing activities you enjoy.
- Take breaks from reading, watching, or listening to the news as hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can increase fear and anxiety.
- Talk with others on the phone and video calling.
- Get in touch with your healthcare provider, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
If you find yourself experiencing a flare-up of the symptoms of your chronic health condition or COVID-19 symptoms, then get in touch with the medical authorities at once.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-at-higher-risk.html> [Accessed 13 April 2020].
- Zheng, Y.Y., Ma, Y.T., Zhang, J.Y. and Xie, X., 2020. COVID-19 and the cardiovascular system. Nature Reviews Cardiology, pp.1-2.
- Fang, L., Karakiulakis, G. and Roth, M., 2020. Are patients with hypertension and diabetes mellitus at increased risk for COVID-19 infection?. The Lancet. Respiratory Medicine.
- Marin, J., Jeler-Kačar, D., Levstek, V. and Maček, V., 2000. Persistence of viruses in upper respiratory tract of children with asthma. Journal of Infection, 41(1), pp.69-72.
- Mao, R., Liang, J., Shen, J., Ghosh, S., Zhu, L.R., Yang, H., Wu, K.C. and Chen, M.H., 2020. Implications of COVID-19 for patients with pre-existing digestive diseases. The lancet Gastroenterology & hepatology.
- Cheng, Y., Luo, R., Wang, K., Zhang, M., Wang, Z., Dong, L., Li, J., Yao, Y., Ge, S. and Xu, G., 2020. Kidney disease is associated with in-hospital death of patients with COVID-19. Kidney International.
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