High Risk Populations
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Some people are more at risk of getting COVID-19 or other infections and developing severe complications due to their health, social and economic circumstances.
Are older adults at a higher risk of getting sick?
Older adults (aged 70 and over) and those with compromised immune systems and serious pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease are at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.
Should we be visiting grandparents or older adults?
Simply put, if you have symptoms do not visit. Stay home and get healthy. If you do visit as you consider yourself well enough, now is the time to practise physical distancing. If you have travelled or recently been in a large gathering, you might want to re-think that visit.
What can older adults do to maintain their health?
Practise healthy eating, and be active, get the recommended amount of sleep, quit smoking or stay smoke-free, and adhere to low-risk drinking guidelines. For many older adults, normal routines have been disrupted with the emergence of COVID-19 and some may be self-monitoring and isolating. In these cases, connecting with friends and family members over the phone is a great way to maintain their sense of connection to others and support mental health.
Should older adults take extra precautions?
In addition to taking regular precautions related to COVID-19, older adults should also consider:
- Working with their health care providers to obtain an extra supply of necessary medications
- Staying in touch with others when self-isolating
- Having a plan in the event that they get sick
- Determining who can care for them if their caregiver gets sick
- Consider ways of getting food brought in to your home to avoid having to go out
What happens if you are required to self-isolate but live with people who are over the age of 70?
- If anyone in the home has symptoms, it is suggested that they wear a mask.
- If there are multiple bathrooms, assign one to the person being isolated.
- Make an effort to not overlap with others and consider a separate bedroom or a separate part of the house for the person who is isolated.
- Regularly clean and disinfect high-contact surfaces like door knobs, counter tops, and light switches.
People Who Use Substances
Although COVID-19 recommendations have specifically been targeted at older adults and people who suffer underlying medical conditions, people who use substances may also be categorized within the high risk population.
COVID-19 can be fatal especially for people with compromised immune systems as well as those with history of breathing and lung problems. Evidence shows that the odds of COVID-19 infection becoming severe is 14 times higher among people who had a history of smoking compared to those who don’t smoke.
Alcohol and opioid drugs are known to have negative effects on the body’s immune response, thereby making people who use substances more vulnerable to infections and diseases. Because the virus attacks the lungs, people who inhale, smoke or vape drugs may experience reduced respiratory function, and may even suffer several complications such as acute respiratory distress.
Unsafe drug taking habits such as sharing both drugs and drug taking equipment (nasal and oral), congregating in small spaces and engaging in close and risky behaviours may also contribute to increased risks of COVID-19 infection among people who use substances.
In addition to this, people who use substances may face social challenges – homelessness, no income, food insecurity and unstable housing – which could make it difficult for them to comply with recommendations on social distancing and isolation.
- Recreational drug use often takes place in settings where people are less likely to maintain physical distancing,
- High-risk activities for people who use substances who may be less likely or able to follow instructions around physical distancing and more likely to engage behaviours such as sharing drug equipment
- Stigma, social marginalization and economic challenges, including a lack of access to housing and health care can add to risk during this time,
- Opioid drug misuse can negatively impact the body’s immune system. As a result, people who use drugs may be at a higher risk of getting infected with COVID-19 virus,
- Withdrawal symptoms can be severe and harmful for those who are not able to access the substances on which they depend due to supply issues caused by COVID-19.
Health Effects of Substance Use
- Opioids slow breathing and have been shown to increase mortality in people with respiratory illnesses, like COVID-19.
- Methamphetamine has been shown to cause significant lung damage and which could worsen the symptoms of COVID-19.
- Alcohol use can negatively impact the immune system as well as respiratory health by weakening the lungs and upper respiratory system, causing a person to be more prone to respiratory diseases.
- Marijuana smoke has been shown to cause chronic bronchitis, a respiratory condition that could be worsened by COVID-19
- Smoking Crack Cocaine has been associated with lung damage and severe respiratory problems which is a risk factor for COVID-19,
- Tobacco and nicotine dependence from the use of cigarettes and vaping devices have been associated with negative health outcomes such as cancer, bronchitis and emphysema
Visit the Windsor Essex Community Opioid and Substance Strategy for more detailed information on the impacts of COVID 19 on people who use substances and those who support them.