Who is high risk for COVID-19?
The current COVID-19 pandemic is caused by a coronavirus. This is a new virus which we don't know much about, so it's important to take precautions to avoid infection. COVID-19 primarily attacks the respiratory system (i.e. the lungs and airways), and usually causes a fever, cough and loss of taste and/or smell.
For specific people, this virus is more likely to cause serious complications. This is why they are advised to take further steps to prevent infection.
According to the NHS, some people are classed as being at high risk for COVID-19. This group includes cancer patients receiving treatment, people who have had organ transplants, and people with severe lung conditions. Other people classed as being at moderate risk include people over 70, pregnant women, and people with conditions such as diabetes or liver disease.
People at high risk from COVID-19
This group includes anyone who:
- has had an organ transplant
- is having cancer treatment such as chemotherapy, antibody treatment or immunotherapy, or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
- is having targeted cancer treatments that affect the immune system (e.g. protein kinase inhibitors)
- has leukaemia, lymphma or myeloma, or another blood or bone marrow cancer
- has had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the past six months
- is taking immunosuppressant medicine
- has severe asthma or another severe lung condition
- has a condition that causes a very high risk of infection (e.g. sickle cell)
- is taking medicines that can increase the risk of infection (e.g. high doses of steroids)
- is pregnant AND has a serious heart condition
What should I do if I’m at high risk?
If you fall into one of the categories above, you would have received a letter at the beginning of the pandemic, and again in January 2021 from the NHS. This would have told you to stay home and practice shielding.
What does sheilding mean?
Shielding is where you stay home at all times and limit your contact with other people in your house. Advice for those people shielding at the beginning of the pandemic is under constant review so it’s important to regularly check your government's website for updates.
Should I be shielding if I'm at higher risk?
If you didn't receive a letter from your GP about shielding, and you think you might be at high risk, you should contact your GP as soon as possible for advice.
Whether or not it’s compulsory, the following advice applies to high risk individuals shielding during the pandemic:
- Staying at home where possible
- Washing your hands regularly
- Avoiding touching your face or hands
- Keeping 2m distance from people outside of your household or bubble
When it's safe to do so these people will be advised:
- Work from home if you can. You can go into work if needs be, provided the workplace if COVID-secure
- Children who are clinically vulnerable can go back to school once the rest of their class have returned
- Go out to buy food, visit places of worship and to exercise, maintaining a social distance wherever possible.
It’s also recommended that you do the following:
- Keep your home as clean as possible by regularly cleaning and wiping objects and surfaces, especially in any shared bathrooms.
- Don’t forget to wipe kettles, doorknobs and phones.
- Get into the habit of washing your hands regularly. You should wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Anyone who comes into your home should wash their hands as soon as they arrive.
- Continue taking all your routine prescription medication and don’t take anything new without consulting your doctor.
- Pack a bag for the hospital that contains a list of all current medications. This will allow you to leave home quickly if you need medical help.
It’s not easy to stay home and limit contact with others, but if you’re at high risk, it’s important to follow the above guidelines until told otherwise.
People at moderate risk from COVID-19
This group includes anyone who:
- is aged 70 or older
- is pregnant
- has a non-severe lung condition
- has diabetes
- has heart disease, liver disease or chronic kidney disease
- has a neurological condition (e.g. Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis)
- has a condition that causes a high risk of infection
- is taking medicine that can affect the immune system (e.g. low doses of steroids)
- is obese, with a BMI of 40 or above
What should I do if I’m at moderate risk?
If your risk from COVID-19 is moderate, you don’t need to practise shielding. However, you should still take precautions to avoid infection.
Help from LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor for asthma patients
If you have asthma you may be at moderate or high risk from COVID-19 depending on the severity of your condition. In either case, you may be concerned about receiving your asthma inhalers over the coming weeks.
At LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, we can supply reliever and preventer inhalers through our trusted and secure online service. Orders are approved by our clinicians and inhalers can be made available for home delivery. Visit our asthma clinic to find out more.
Updated 5th Jan 2021 - we recommend the COVID-19 pages on the NHS website for more up to date information.