COVID-19 can afflict anyone and its symptoms can vary widely across people of different ages. While some of the infected might not show any symptoms at all, others can become so ill that they ultimately require respiratory support to breathe(1).
While evidence to date has established that the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions are most vulnerable to becoming severely ill from the virus(2), there are other less-known groups of people who are also considered high-risk in this current situation.
The following 5 groups of people need to take heed!
1. The Elderly
While Singapore has one of the lowest mortality rates in the world for COVID-19, the majority of deaths that occurred in our country involved people aged 64 to 95(3). Other countries such as Italy and the United States are in a similar situation.
This can be attributed to several factors, including a weaker immune system and pre-existing health issues. As such, it becomes difficult for the elderly to fight off infections and recover from immense stressors to their bodies. Many senior citizens reside in nursing homes as well, and they tend to live in close proximity to each other, which allows the virus to spread more rapidly.
2. People with Pre-Existing Medical Conditions
COVID-19 causes respiratory conditions, which means that the respiratory tract (encompassing the nose, throat and lungs) is usually affected first(4). This may cause the flare-up of existing respiratory weaknesses that could possibly lead to pneumonia and other serious illnesses.
Aside from that, the body’s response to the viral infection may also affect other organs such as the heart, kidneys and liver. In its attempt to rid the body of the virus, the immune response can sometimes cause damage to healthy tissue(5). People with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease etc. are less able to handle additional aggravation to their bodies, leaving them more susceptible to developing severe sickness from the virus.
Due to the damage caused by the toxins from cigarette smoke, smokers are likely to have reduced lung capacity and/or may be suffering from existing respiratory diseases. With poorer lung health to begin with, smokers are more prone to developing serious implication from the COVID-19 infection(6).
Additionally, smoking is also one of the key contributors to the development and progression of many chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and more(7).
4. People with Obesity
Severe obesity (BMI >40) has been found to be a major risk contributing to severe disease in persons infected with COVID-19. Persons with obesity can have reduced lung function due to the excess weight surrounding their abdomens(8), making it more likely for them to develop severe respiratory illness from the infection.
Besides that, persons with obesity pose certain physical challenges associated with their care, e.g. difficulties with intubation and challenges in transferring and positioning them to achieve adequate oxygenation, which may affect their chances of recovery after being infected with COVID-19. Obese individuals also often have associated conditions like diabetes and heart disease, similar to people who smoke.
5. Pregnant Women
Pregnant women are more likely to contract influenza and infections caused by viruses of the same family as COVID-19(9). They are also more prone to being badly affected by respiratory infections due to the changes in their bodies and immune systems(10).
While there is no hard evidence that pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19, it is still important for them to take precautions to protect themselves from the virus in order to minimize that risk.
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. If you do happen to belong to any of the above vulnerable groups, the best way to stay safe is to remain at home as much as possible so that you do not run the risk of getting exposed to the virus and getting infected.
If you are feeling unwell, the teleconsultation service on the Doctor World app is available 24/7, so you can get access to timely medical attention in the comfort of your own home. Medication will also be delivered straight to your doorstep in under 3 hours so you do not have to step out of your house at all.
Download the Doctor World app and enjoy medical convenience in the palm of your hand! Stay home and stay safe!