Coronavirus: What it means for people with weakened immune systems

Apr 13, 2020
Here’s what you need to know about coronavirus and those with weakened immune systems. Source: Getty.

As coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, medical experts are urging certain individuals or groups, including the immunocompromised, to take extra precautions. While the virus poses health risks for everyone, people with weakened immune systems are more likely to become seriously ill if they contract Covid-19.

But what does it mean to be immunocompromised, exactly? Here’s what you need to know about how coronavirus can affect those with weakened immune systems.

What does immunocompromised mean?

Being immunocompromised means having a weakened immune system, which reduces the body’s ability to fight infections and other diseases, for example, the new coronavirus. The immunocompromised are at no greater risk of becoming infected with the virus than others, however, they are more likely to experience serious complications if they contract the virus.

According to Dr Ian Williams, a compromised immune system may be caused by certain diseases or conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, lung disease and certain genetic disorders, such as immune deficiencies.  Your immune system can also be weakened by smoking, alcohol, some prescription drugs, and poor nutrition. The immune system also tends to get weaker with age.

What extra precautions should immunocompromised people take?

If you do fall into the immunocompromised category, there are simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of contracting Covid-19. “The use of standard precautions aims to minimise, and where possible, eliminate the risk of infection,” Dr Williams says.

He advises avoiding close contact with others and practising good personal hygiene. That includes trying to stay home as much as possible, avoiding public spaces and washing your hands with soap and water frequently. Meanwhile, there are also a few things you can do to help strengthen your immune system — for example, getting enough sleep. Research shows that sleep-deprived people can have suppressed immunity, meaning that they’re more at risk of getting sick.

So, how many hours of sleep do we need to reap the benefits? Most adults aged 26 to 64 years need about seven to nine hours of sleep per night, while those aged 65 or older need seven to eight hours of sleep per night to feel rested and alert.

Eating a wide variety of colourful fruits and vegetables can also help your immune system fight off illnesses, while research shows that increased vitamin D intake, especially in older people, could strengthen people’s immunity against viral infections.—

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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