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Underlying health conditions, such as heart or lung disease, can increase your risk of developing dangerous symptoms if you become infected with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) symptoms can vary widely. Some people have no symptoms at all, while others become so sick that they eventually need mechanical assistance to breathe.
The risk of developing dangerous symptoms of COVID-19 may be increased in people who are older and also in people of any age who have other serious health problems — such as heart or lung conditions, weakened immune systems, severe obesity, or diabetes. This is similar to what is seen with other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza.
People of any age, even children, can catch COVID-19. But it most commonly affects middle-aged and older adults. The risk of developing dangerous symptoms increases with age, with those who are age 85 and older at the highest risk of serious symptoms. In the U.S., about 80% of deaths from the disease have been in people age 65 and older. Risks are even higher for older people when they have underlying health conditions
Take all your medications as prescribed. Consider developing a care plan that includes information about your medical conditions, medications, doctors' names and emergency contacts.
Nursing home residents are at high risk because they often have multiple underlying health problems, combined with advanced age. And germs can spread very easily between people who live in close proximity to each other. If you live in a nursing home, follow the guidelines to prevent infection. Ask about protection measures for residents and visitor restrictions. Let staff know if you feel ill.
COVID-19 targets the lungs, so you're more likely to develop severe symptoms if you have preexisting lung problems. Your risk of serious symptoms is higher if you have these conditions:
Some lung conditions may increase your risk of serious illness from COVID-19, including:
While some medications for these conditions can weaken your immune system, it's important to stay on your maintenance medications to keep symptoms as controlled as possible. You may want to talk to your doctor about obtaining an emergency supply of prescription medications, such as asthma inhalers.
It may also help to avoid the things that make your asthma worse. These asthma triggers can vary from person to person. Examples include pollen, dust mites, tobacco smoke and cold air. Strong emotions and stress can trigger asthma attacks in some people. Others are bothered by strong odors, so make sure the disinfectant you're using isn't an asthma trigger for you.
In addition to being an asthma trigger, smoking or vaping can harm your lungs and inhibit your immune system, which increases the risk of serious complications with COVID-19.
People with several chronic conditions are more likely to experience dangerous symptoms if infected with COVID-19. These include type 2 diabetes, severe obesity and serious heart diseases. High blood pressure and type 1 diabetes may increase your risk of serious COVID-19 symptoms.
Obesity and diabetes both reduce the efficiency of a person's immune system. Diabetes increases the risk of infections in general. The risk of infections, including COVID-19, can be reduced by keeping blood sugar levels controlled and continuing your diabetes medications and insulin.
Your risk of serious illness is higher if you have heart diseases such as cardiomyopathy, pulmonary hypertension, congenital heart disease, heart failure or coronary artery disease. Continue to take your medications exactly as prescribed. If you have high blood pressure, your risk may be higher if you don't control your blood pressure and take your medications. Keep your high blood pressure controlled and take your medications as directed.
A healthy immune system fights the germs that cause disease. But many conditions can weaken your immune system. Conditions that affect your immune system and increase your risk of serious illness from COVID-19 include:
Your risk of serious symptoms from COVID-19 may be increased if you have conditions such as:
If you have a weakened immune system, you may need to take extra precautions to avoid the virus that causes COVID-19. Routine doctor appointments may be delayed or happen via phone or video conference. You may want to have your medications mailed to you, so you don't have to go to the pharmacy.
If you have chronic kidney disease, you're at higher risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19. You may have a higher risk of being ill with serious COVID-19 symptoms if you have chronic liver disease.
If you're on dialysis for chronic kidney disease, go to every dialysis appointment. Let your health care provider know if you feel ill. You may have a weakened immune system if you have chronic kidney disease and are having dialysis.
If you have chronic liver disease, your risk of being seriously ill with COVID-19 may be higher because you may have a weakened immune system. Also, having serious COVID-19 symptoms and taking medications to treat the disease may have negative effects on the liver.
Although there is no vaccine available to prevent infection with the new coronavirus, you can take steps to reduce your risk of infection. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend following these precautions for avoiding COVID-19:
In addition to these everyday precautions, if you are at higher risk of infection or of developing serious COVID-19 symptoms, you might also want to:
This article is written by Mayo Clinic Staff. Find more health and medical information on mayoclinic.org.
Information in this post was accurate at the time of its posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding along with guidelines and recommendations may have changed since the original publication date.
Check the CDC website for additional updates on COVID-19. For more information and all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network and mayoclinic.org.
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