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Severe illness from COVID-19: Do you know your risk?

Mar 22, 2024
Image Source: Getty

As we age, our focus naturally shifts towards maintaining good health. Regular visits to the doctor become essential for health screenings and the management of long-term conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.1 It’s important to note that in addition to age, certain long-term health conditions may increase the risk of severe COVID-19 illness which may, in some cases, require hospitalisation.2

Here’s how you can plan for what to do in case you test positive for COVID-19.

Learn about your risk for severe COVID-19 illness

Some people have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 than others. If you are aged 70 years or older, you are at higher risk than people below age 70.2

Certain long-term conditions – such as heart disease, dementia, diabetes and asthma – may also increase your risk if you are aged 50 years or older.2

Other risk factors (not an exhaustive list) include:2

  • Living in residential aged care.
  • Living with complex disability.
  • Having a weakened immune system due to medical conditions or certain medications.

Speak with your doctor to find out about your risk.2 Your doctor can also help you with staying up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations.2

Visit planforcovid.com.au to learn more.

Recognise when you should test for COVID-19

COVID-19 symptoms can be similar to some common illnesses like colds and the flu, so it’s not always easy to tell the difference.3 That’s why it’s important to test early – even when symptoms are mild.

COVID-19 symptoms may include:3

  • Cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Tiredness (fatigue).
  • Headache.
  • Runny or stuffy nose.
  • Sneezing.
  • Fever.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Aches and pains.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild to severe. Some people recover quickly at home while others get very sick and may need treatment within the hospital.5

Talk to your doctor6

In Australia, oral treatments are available for certain people at high risk of severe illness who test positive for COVID-19.6 These treatments need to be started within 5 days of symptoms starting.7 It is a good idea to plan ahead by talking to your doctor about your risk and about oral antivirals before you get sick. You should then contact them as soon as you test positive for COVID-19.7

Have a plan in hand 

Life after age 60 can be busy. You may be busy downsizing your home, taking a grey nomad adventure or moving into a lifestyle community or a retirement village. You may be simply busy with day-to-day life and doing the things you enjoy! However, it is important to take some time to take care of health matters. This should include staying up to date with your vaccinations, discussing your risk of severe COVID-19 illness with your doctor and what to do if you test positive for COVID-19.2

Get tips to start your planning at planforcovid.com.au.

References

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2023). Older Australians. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/older-people/older-australians (accessed February 2024).
  2. Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. Groups at higher risk from COVID-19. https://www.health.gov.au/topics/covid-19/protect-yourself-and-others/high-risk-groups#illnesses-and-conditions-that-increase-your-risk-of-severe-illness (accessed February 2024).
  3. Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. COVID-19: Identifying the symptoms. https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-identifying-the-symptoms (accessed February 2024).
  4. Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. Testing for COVID-19. https://www.health.gov.au/topics/covid-19/testing (accessed February 2024).
  5. Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. About Coronavirus (COVID-19). Learn about the COVID-19 disease, symptoms and effects. https://www.health.gov.au/topics/covid-19/about#symptoms (accessed February 2024). 
  6. Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. Updated eligibility for oral COVID-19 treatments. https://www.health.gov.au/health-alerts/covid-19/treatments/eligibility (accessed February 2024).
  7. Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. Oral treatments for COVID-19. https://www.health.gov.au/topics/covid-19/oral-treatments (accessed February 2024).

Copyright © 2024 Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, NJ, USA and its affiliates. All rights reserved.

Merck Sharp & Dohme (Australia) Pty Limited. Level 1 – Building A, 26 Talavera Road, Macquarie Park NSW 2113.

MSDA0105. AU-ANV-00506. Issued March 2024.

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.

Are you at high risk of severe COVID-19?

Some people have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 than others. Talk to your doctor about your risk and discuss whether you need a plan if you test positive for COVID-19.
MSD, Macquarie Park. AU-ANV-00529. Issued March 2024.

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