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Dr. Fauci Warns This Majorly Increases Your COVID Risk

An increased age, obesity, cancer, chronic kidney disease and other underlying conditions can put you at severe risk.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek
Doctor Anthony Fauci

Coronavirus cases are slowing but the risk of severe complications looms, especially for "the people who are at increased risk for severe disease," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, this week at a meeting with American Association for the Advancement of Science. Read on to see the underlying conditions he presented, that may put you at risk—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus


Older Adults are at Increased Risk

senior woman wearing protective medical mask for protection from virus at home

Anyone can get COVID and anyone can get sick from COVID. But older people are at increased risk for getting severely ill. "If one looks at the people who are at increased risk for severe disease, clearly older adults dominate that because if you look at the hospitalization per a hundred thousand population, the extraordinary discrepancy of the age with elderly individuals, 75 years of age or older, compared to younger individuals—the discrepancy in hospitalization is profound." Dr. Fauci shared the cumulative rates of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19-associated hospitalizations by age and, per 100,000 population, 2,383 were 85 and up; 1,598 were 75-84; 933 were 65-74; and for comparison, 239 were 30-39.


Those With Cancer are at Increased Risk

woman in bed suffering from cancer

"Some cancer patients might be at increased risk of serious infection in general because their immune systems can be weakened by cancer and its treatments," says the American Cancer Society. "Most people who were treated for cancer in the past (especially if it was years ago) are likely to have normal immune function, but each person is different. It's important that all cancer patients and survivors, whether currently in treatment or not, talk with a doctor who understands their situation and medical history."


Those With Chronic Kidney Disease are at Increased Risk

At doctors appointment physician shows to patient shape of kidney with focus on hand with organ. Scene explaining patient causes and localization of diseases of kidney, stones, adrenal, urinary system - Image

"People with kidney disease and other severe chronic medical conditions are at higher risk for more severe illness," says the National Kidney Foundation. "People on dialysis can have weaker immune systems, making it harder to fight infections. However, it is important to know that kidney patients need to continue with their regularly scheduled dialysis treatments and to take necessary precautions as recommended by their healthcare team."


Those With COPD are at Increased Risk

Patients lying on hospital bed with mask, looking at lung x-ray film during doctor reading result and advice a treatment

"Having COPD (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis) is known to increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19," says the CDC. "Keep taking your current medicines, including those with steroids in them ('steroids' is another word for corticosteroids)….Avoid triggers that make your symptoms worse."


Those With Type-2 Diabetes are at Increased Risk

Man taking blood sample with lancet pen indoors

"People with diabetes are more likely to have serious complications from COVID-19. In general, people with diabetes are more likely to have more severe symptoms and complications when infected with any virus, says the American Diabetes Association. "Your risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 is likely to be lower if your diabetes is well-managed. Having heart disease or other complications in addition to diabetes could worsen the chance of getting seriously ill from COVID-19, like other viral infections, because more than one condition makes it harder for your body to fight the infection."


Those With Down Syndrome are at Increased Risk

Girl with down syndrome having breakfast.

"Among groups at higher risk of dying from COVID-19, such as people with diabetes, people with Down Syndrome stand out: If infected, they are five times more likely to be hospitalized and 10 times more likely to die than the general population, according to a large U.K. study published in October," reports Science Magazine. "Other recent studies back up the high risk."


Those With Heart Conditions are at Increased Risk

Patient complains of heart pain to a cardiologist doctor
  • E.g. heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies

"The heart and lung work together in the body to maintain oxygenation. When the lung is affected by a respiratory illness like novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the heart may also be affected. The heart must work hard to pump blood, which may be even more difficult for someone with heart disease," says the University of Maryland Medical System. "Some heart patients may have a higher risk of contracting the disease, and some may be more prone to complications if they get it. In addition, the virus can cause heart muscle or vessel damage, resulting in severe problems."


Those in an Immunocompromised State From a Solid Organ Transplant are at Increased Risk

Female and male doctors wearing masks and uniforms are visiting to check the symptoms of middle-aged female patients lying in bed.

"Post-transplant or other high-risk patients may be at higher risk for severe disease from COVID-19. For severe cases, recovery may take 6 weeks or more," says the National Kidney Foundation. "Because transplant recipients take immunosuppressive drugs, they have a higher risk of infection from viruses such as cold or flu. To lower the chance of getting the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, transplant patients should follow the CDC's guidance on how to avoid catching or spreading germs, and contact their health care professional if they develop symptoms of COVID-19."


Those Who Are Obese are at Increased Risk

Young overweight caucasian adventurous teenage girl with blonde hair looking out at the ocean, while leaning on the wooden railing along the beach

Dr. Fauci defines obesity as having a BMI greater than or equal to 30. He says "those clearly stand out as important…particularly morbid obesity with a BMI of greater than 30."


Those Who are Pregnant are at Increased Risk

Portrait of the young pregnant woman

"Based on what we know at this time, pregnant people are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and death, compared to non-pregnant people. Additionally, pregnant people with COVID-19 might be at increased risk for other adverse outcomes, such as preterm birth (delivering the baby earlier than 37 weeks)," says the CDC.


Those With Sickle Cell Disease are at Increased Risk

sickle cell disease

According to the CDC, one study found "people with sickle cell disease who developed coronavirus disease have high rates of hospitalization, intensive care unit admission, and death," adding: "It is especially important for people with medical conditions, such as SCD, that put them at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and those who live with them, to protect themselves from getting COVID-19."


Those Who Smoke are at Increased Risk


Smoke is bad for you at the best of times. Now: "Cumulative exposure to cigarette smoke was associated with more severe outcomes among individuals testing positive for COVID-19, including higher risks of hospitalization and death, researchers found," according to MedPage Today.

RELATED: Dr. Fauci Just Said When We'd Get Back to Normal


These Medical Conditions "May Confer Increased Risk" Says Dr. Fauci

A woman using an asthma inhaler in a cold winter

If you have any of the following, be extra careful. There may be a link to these conditions and severe COVID.

  • Asthma (moderate to severe)
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Type-1 Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Immunocompromised state from blood marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids or other immune-weakening medicines
  • Neurologic conditions (i.e. dementia)
  • Liver Disease
  • Overweight (BMI greater than 25 but less than 30)
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis
  • Thalassemia


What to Do If You are at Risk for Severe COVID

Young caucasian woman wearing surgical gloves putting face mask on, protection from spread of Coronavirus

Follow Fauci's fundamentals and help end this pandemic—use extra care if you are at severe risk, wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.