Extra Coronavirus Precautions to Take If You’re Older
Every day brings new information about the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19. Our family practice doctors at Cohen Medical Associates in Delray Beach have told you that the coronavirus is an equal-opportunity illness, infecting and killing young and old alike.
But one thing experts are fairly certain of is that adults 65 and older are at a greater risk than younger people in the areas of hospital admissions, the necessity for intensive care, and deaths, with those 85 and older especially at risk in all these areas.
In addition, people with such chronic illnesses as diabetes, heart and lung disease, kidney disease, and those with compromised immune systems are also more likely to suffer worse outcomes than those without.
Therefore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as other health experts, recommend that these groups need to take extra precautions.
Older adults, higher risk
According to the CDC, up to 60 percent of adults 65-84 years old will require hospitalization; of those, up to 31 percent required admission to an intensive care unit, and 10 percent of those have died.
The figures are even more stark for those 85 and older, of whom up to 70 percent required hospitalization, up to 29 percent required ICU admission, and up to 27 percent have died.
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), “This is likely because as people age, their immune systems change, making it harder for their body to fight off diseases and infection, and because many older adults are also more likely to have underlying health conditions that make it harder to cope with and recover from.”
The positive news
Even so, it’s possible to turn these numbers around and see that, for example, even among those 85 and older, at least 73 percent of those who contract COVID-19 have recovered with prompt and intensive medical care.
While still have a great deal to learn about this new virus, geriatricians are beginning to get a better picture of what constitutes a higher risk in the older population.
“What a number of physicians are saying is, you should consider whether you’re frail,” in deciding whether you’re at higher risk, John Morley, a physician who is a professor of geriatrics at St. Louis University School of Medicine, told The Washington Post.
What does that mean? He explained using the acronym FRAIL:
- F: Are you consistently fatigued?
- R, for resilience: Can you climb a flight of stairs?
- A, for aerobic: Can you walk a block?
- I, for illnesses: Five or more is bad
- L, for weight loss: also not good
Take extra care
Even if you don’t fall into the “FRAIL” category as outlined above, if you’re older or have underlying conditions, you need to take extra precautions.
Stay home as much as possible. Especially avoid situations where you might encounter others who are sick, including pharmacies—have someone else pick up your prescriptions for you, or have them delivered.
If you must go out, maintain a safe distance; that is, six feet away from others at all times. This is because the coronavirus has been shown to travel that far in droplets from others when they cough, sneeze, talk, or even breathe.
Consider wearing a face covering if you must go out. We hesitate to offer this suggestion, because we fear some people will think this will protect them from the virus.
Unless you’re wearing a medical-grade face mask (which at this time should be reserved for medical personnel, given the acute shortage in this country), a scarf or homemade mask will not prevent the virus from entering your nose and mouth.
It can, however, keep you from touching your own nose and mouth until you can thoroughly wash your hands when you get home. It can also protect others from your virus-shedding droplets if you are infected but still asymptomatic.
Beware of scams
And while we’re talking about face masks, everyone should be aware of the myriad scams proliferating in the midst of this crisis.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam coronavirus treatments to home test kits to vaccinations. If you receive such a call, hang up.
There are also, of course, online as well as text and email offers for medical-grade face masks, supposed preventions and cures, and offers to get your COVID-19 relief check sooner. These are all scams. Ignore them, and especially don’t click on links from sources you don’t know.
Watch your own health
Whatever your age or state of health, the best way to avoid becoming ill—besides staying home—is to boost your immunity by:
- eating healthy, well-balanced meals
- taking deep breaths, stretching, or meditating
- exercising regularly
- getting plenty of sleep
- making time to unwind
- taking breaks from watching, reading, or listening to the news
And be sure call 911 if you develop any of the major symptoms of COVID-19:
- fever of 103 or higher
- shortness of breath