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People with chronic conditions

Research shows that some people are more likely to experience a more severe case of COVID-19 than others. If you are a person who may develop a more severe case of COVID-19, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself during the pandemic.

Last updated: April 20, 2021


Factors that have been linked with severe COVID-19 illness


Research during the pandemic shows that some factors and health conditions lead to a more severe case of COVID-19. This can result in being admitted to the hospital, the intensive care unit (ICU) or even dying from COVID-19. 

So far, age is the most important factor- the older you are, the greater your chance of having a severe case of COVID-19. Some health conditions also increase your chance of having a severe case of COVID-19. These include:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular Disease (heart disease)
  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • Chronic Respiratory Disease (lung disease)
  • Diabetes 
  • Down Syndrome
  • Gout
  • Immunosuppression and Immunodeficiency
  • Obesity
  • Organ Transplants
  • Sickle Cell Disease
A severe case of COVID-19 is also more likely if you have more than one of the conditions listed above. Lifestyle factors, such as smoking or substance use, can make a COVID-19 illness worse. 

Some factors that you do not have control over because they are caused by systemic inequities can also impact your likelihood of getting a more severe case of COVID-19. These factors include living with poverty, poor housing conditions, being part of certain ethnic or racialized group and lack of access to medical care. 


How to protect yourself from COVID-19

Protecting yourself means following the same public health guidelines as everyone else, but there are also extra steps you can take.

When you go out, take steps to protect yourself

  • Wear a well-fitting, three-layer mask that covers your nose, mouth, and chin.
  • As much as possible, keep a two-metre distance between yourself and others outside of your household.
  • Wash your hands frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid crowded or poorly ventilated places.
  • Stay away from people who are ill and avoid those who have been asked to self-isolate. This includes people who have recently traveled to B.C. from outside of Canada.
Continue to get regular medical care for all your health conditions during the pandemic. When getting to a doctor’s office or clinic:

  • Drive yourself or ride with someone from your household. 
  • If you need to take a taxi or ride share, wear your mask and open windows during the trip. Clean your hands before and after.
  • If you need to take transit, wear your mask and keep two metres apart from others. Clean your hands before and after. 

Plan ahead

  • Try to keep a two-week supply of your medicines on hand.
  • Schedule your medical visit and errands for less busy times.
  • Keep a supply of masks and hand sanitizer in convenient places for easy access.
For more information on protecting yourself in different situations, visit Safer Social Interactions

Staying healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic


In general, reducing the number of people you see helps limit the chance of coming in contact with a person who has COVID-19. 

You will need to assess your level of comfort and your own health when deciding how to best protect yourself. Remember to consider you physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health when deciding how you will participate in daily life. You can talk to your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions or concerns about COVID-19 and your health. 

Some people with certain health conditions may choose to isolate completely during the pandemic - a practice called protective self-separation. This is a personal choice and is something you can discuss with your health care provider. Staying home and not seeing people can make you feel lonely and isolated. You will need to consider your mental and emotional health if you decide to practice protective self-separation and think about ways to stay connected to friends and family.

SOURCE: People with chronic conditions ( )
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