Coronavirus can make anyone seriously ill. But some people are at a higher risk and need to take extra steps to avoid becoming unwell.
People at increased risk
You may be at increased risk from coronavirus if you:
- are 70 or older
- are pregnant
- have a condition that may increase your risk from coronavirus
Conditions that may increase your risk
- lung conditions, such as asthma, COPD, emphysema or bronchitis
- heart disease, such as heart failure
- chronic kidney disease
- liver disease, such as hepatitis
- conditions affecting the brain and nerves, such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
- problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you've had your spleen removed
- a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
- being very overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)
How to protect yourself from coronavirus
The advice for people who may be at increased risk from coronavirus is the same as for most other people.
You should only leave the house for very limited purposes:
- shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
- one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
- any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
- travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home
If you're pregnant and worried about coronavirus, you can get specific advice about coronavirus and pregnancy from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
People most at risk
People most at risk from coronavirus are sometimes called "shielded" or "extremely vulnerable" people.
This includes people who:
- have had an organ transplant
- are having certain types of cancer treatment
- have blood or bone marrow cancer, such as leukaemia
- have a severe lung condition, such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma
- have a condition or are taking medicine that makes them much more likely to get infections
- are pregnant and have a serious heart condition
People most at risk are being contacted by the NHS.
Speak to your GP or care team if you have not been contacted and think you should have been.
How to protect yourself from coronavirus
People most at risk from coronavirus need to take extra steps to avoid getting it. This is known as "shielding".
It's recommended you follow this advice for at least 12 weeks.
stay at home at all times – do not leave your home to buy food, collect medicine or exercise
stay at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from other people in your home as much as possible
get food and medicine delivered and left outside your door – ask friends and family to help or register to get coronavirus support on GOV.UK if you need it
prepare a hospital bag, including a list of the medicines you're taking – in case you need to go into hospital
wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
make sure anyone who comes into your home washes their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds
use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
clean objects and surfaces you touch often (like door handles, kettles and phones) using your regular cleaning products
clean a shared bathroom each time you use it, for example by wiping the surfaces you have touched
do not have visitors in your home, including friends and family, unless they're providing essential care
do not stop taking any prescription medicines without speaking to your doctor
How to look after your wellbeing
Staying at home and reducing contact with other people can be hard.
There are things you can try to help you to stay well:
- stay in touch with family and friends over the phone or on social media
- spend time doing things you enjoy – such as reading, cooking, indoor hobbies, listening to the radio or watching TV
- do light exercise at home
- spend time with the windows open to let in fresh air
- spend time in your garden or on your doorstep, if possible – but stay at least 2 metres away from other people
- read the advice about how to look after your mental wellbeing while staying at home from Every Mind Matters
People with certain health conditions
Some charities and organisations have worked with the NHS to produce specific advice about coronavirus.
Asthma – Asthma UK: coronavirus (COVID-19)
Other lung conditions, such as COPD – British Lung Foundation: coronavirus and COVID-19
Joint and muscle conditions, such as arthritis – Versus Arthritis: coronavirus (COVID-19)
Page last reviewed: 1 April 2020
Next review due: 2 April 2020