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COVID-19: Advice for People at High Risk


COVID-19 causes a mild illness in many people who have it. But certain things may increase your risk for more serious illness. These include:

  • Age. The risk increases with age. Older adults are at highest risk.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Smoking.
  • Obesity.
  • Living in a long-term care facility.
  • Having ongoing serious health issues. Some examples are:
    • Chronic lung disease or asthma.
    • Heart problems.
    • A weakened immune system.
    • Cancer treatment.
    • Diabetes.
    • Chronic kidney disease and having dialysis.
    • Sickle cell disease.

This is not a complete list. If you have a chronic health problem, ask your doctor if you should take extra precautions.

If you are pregnant, you and your baby may be at risk for pregnancy problems, such as preterm birth. And you are at higher risk for serious illness if you get COVID-19.

  • Stay home.
    • Stay home as much as you can. This may be the easiest way to avoid exposure, as long as no one else in your household has the virus.
    • Avoid visitors right now. Remember that people may have been exposed without knowing it or having any symptoms. If you have to have visitors, they need to wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from you. And keep the visit as short as possible.
    • Increase airflow in your home if people visit. This can help reduce the amount of virus particles (droplets) that travel through the air. If you can, open some windows or doors to the outside. Use a fan to blow air away from people and out a window. Turn on exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathroom.
    • Have enough food, medicines, and other supplies on hand so that you don't have to go out. Try some of these options if you don't have what you need.
      • Use delivery and takeout services for groceries and meals.
      • Have a healthy family member, friend, or neighbor shop for you.
      • Ask your doctor for extra prescription medicine.
    • Routinely clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces. These include countertops, faucets, door handles, doorknobs, and phones.
    • Do not travel.
  • Wash your hands often and well.
    • Wash your hands often, especially after you cough or sneeze. Use soap and water, and scrub for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Be extra careful if you have to go out.
    • Wear a mask whenever you leave home. It should cover your nose and mouth without gaps at the sides.
    • Avoid crowds and crowded places. Try to keep at least 6 feet of space between yourself and others.
    • Don't use public transportation, ride-shares, or taxis unless you have no choice.
    • Carry hand sanitizer with you. If you must touch something, you'll be able to keep your hands clean.
    • Don't shake hands with anyone. Try a friendly wave instead.
    • Don't touch your face.
    • Wash your hands again as soon as you get home.
  • Get protected with the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you.
    • If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a weakened immune system, talk to your doctor before you get the vaccine.
    • Encourage people close to you to get the vaccine when it's available to them.
  • Know when to call your doctor.
    • Call your doctor if you have symptoms of COVID-19, like a fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
    • Call your doctor if you have other medical problems. If you are told to get testing or care and must go out, wear a mask.

Related Information


Current as of: March 26, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Heather Quinn MD - Family Medicine
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine

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