Anyone over the age of 60 is more at risk to become seriously ill through contracting the coronavirus. This means the older you are the more at risk you are to require hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator, and are also more likely to die from the virus. According to the CDC 80% of deaths from COVID-19 in the United States are among those 65 and older. One reason the elderly are more vulnerable to COVID-19 is because they are more likely to have underlying conditions such as, diabetes, chronic lung disease, high blood pressure, or cardiovascular disease. It will take many years to fully understand the virus and how it works, however right now it is proven that being older and having an underlying condition puts you at an increased risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19.
Steps to Take to Reduce Your Risk of Contracting COVID-19
1. Stay inside as much as possible to avoid interacting with others who are sick or asymptomatic.
2. When interacting with others take precautions such as, wearing a mask, standing 6 feet apart, and using hand sanitizer.
3. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds.
4. Refrain from touching your eyes, nose, or mouth when in public areas. Wash your hands when you arrive at your home.
The Aging Immune System
Immunosenescence is defined as the decline in immune function due to aging. As you age, your immune system declines, meaning your immune system’s ability to detect pathogens, such as viruses, has weakened, therefore you are more likely to get sick. Next Avenue, a national journalism service, did an interview with Dr. Sean X. Leng. Dr. Leng is a professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and in his interview, he discussed how the immunosenescence process, puts the elderly at an increased risk of dying from COIVD-19. Dr. Leng states, “To put it in simple terms, because of the decline in immune function, if even one viral particle gets into the airways of an older adult, it may be enough for the virus to survive and grow there because of the decline in immune function. For younger individuals, if you have a very strong immune system, the body may be able to kill that virus even if more particles get in”. Due to aging immune systems declining in function, it is very important, if you are 65 or older, to follow all of the precautions illustrated by the CDC to keep yourself safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. For a more detailed description on the aging immune system related to COVID-19, you can watch Dr. Leng’s webinar, about the impact of COVID-19 on older people, on the American Federation for Aging Research website. Just click the link: https://www.afar.org/events/covid-19-can-the-science-of-aging-move-us-forward
Fever or Chills
New loss of taste or smell
When to Contact Your Doctor
If you experience any symptoms of COVID-19 or have come in contact with someone who has COVID-19, contact your doctor immediately for what steps to take. According to the CDC, you should follow these steps if you become sick with COVID-19 to help stop the spread.
Stay home except to get medical care
Separate yourself from other people
Monitor your symptoms by following instructions from your healthcare provider
Call ahead before visiting your doctor
Wear a mask over your nose and mouth
Cover your coughs and sneezes
Clean your hands often
Avoid sharing personal household items
Clean all “high-touch” surfaces everyday
If you experience any of the symptoms below seek emergency medical care immediately:
Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
Inability to wake or stay awake
Bluish lips or face