6 Tips for At-Risk Individuals to Prevent COVID-19

Extra precaution can help keep the novel coronavirus away.

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As you probably already know, COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus) is most threatening to older adults and those with pre-existing medical conditions. This includes adults over 50—especially over 80; people with high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, or diabetes; and people who are immunocompromised.

If you’re in these groups, it’s very important to take extra precaution to protect yourself (in addition to the prevention tips against COVID-19 for the general public). Here’s what’s recommended for at-risk individuals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO).

1. Stock up on supplies

With empty shelves at the store, it’s important to resist hoarding supplies, but make sure you have a reasonable amount of supplies to help you last through a couple weeks of isolation. This can help you avoid going out in public and potentially exposing yourself to COVID-19.

You’ve probably heard the tips to stock up on groceries and household supplies (not just toilet paper), but don’t forget to make sure you’re stocked up on your prescription medications and some over-the-counter medications to relieve fever or other symptoms.

2. Stay home as much as possible

If you’re employed, work from home if possible. Avoid gatherings—even just a dinner party at a friend’s house. Consider utilizing delivery services for food and other items when your supplies are running low, instead of going to the store yourself.

3. Avoid all non-essential travel

Crowded, closed-in settings (like airplanes) have little air circulation, and that environment can allow respiratory viruses to spread more easily. Canceling travel plans is hard, but can be life-saving during a pandemic.

4. Practice social distancing

While you should be at home as much as possible, if you must go in public, keep distance from others, especially those who are coughing and sneezing. Experts recommend 6 feet distance between you and others for the best protection.

For that reason, it’s essential to avoid crowds and large events, where it’s impossible to keep your distance, with tons of strangers who could potentially be carrying the virus. If you must go to stores or other public places, go during non-peak hours so it’s easier to keep your distance.

5. Avoid touching high-touch surfaces, especially in public places

This includes elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, etc. Viruses can live on a surface and be transferred to others who touch it. If they then touch their mouth, nose, or eyes, the virus can enter their body and infect them.

If you must touch something, try using a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand. Washing your hands afterwards is a good idea, too.

6. Have a sick plan just in case

Consult your primary care doctor for suggestions based on your unique needs. Contact your loved ones—by phone or email, of course—to make sure they’re prepared to help out. Even if you have a caregiver, consider finding a backup caregiver in case yours falls ill.

It’s normal to feel anxious or worried, but being prepared and having a plan may help alleviate some of that stress.