Advice for people at higher risk

Things that can affect your risk

Public Health England has identified a number of factors that may increase your risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. Currently, it is unknown why these characteristics increase your risk, but research is ongoing. These are:

  • Age - as you get older your risk increases
  • Background - your risk is higher if you are from a Black, Asian, minority ethnic background

More risk factors may be added as we learn more about the virus.

If you have any of these risk factors you do not need to take any specific measures, but you should continue good hand and respiratory hygiene.

COVID-19 and smoking - what are the risks?

The evidence on smoking and COVID-19 is in development, however current scientific findings suggest that smoking generally increases your risk of developing respiratory infections, and increases the severity of symptoms once infected. This also affects people who are exposed to second-hand smoke. Stopping smoking will bring immediate benefits to your health in the short and long-term.

For more information on smoking and COVID-19, visit the Government website.

Vulnerable Individuals

Becoming seriously unwell can happen to anyone, but some people are at a higher risk.

Who is at higher risk?

You’re at higher risk of becoming seriously ill if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Have a lung condition (such as severe asthma, COPD, emphysema or bronchitis)
  • Have heart or blood vessel disease (such as heart failure or peripheral arterial disease)
  • Have diabetes
  • Have chronic kidney disease
  • Have liver disease (such as cirrhosis hepatitis)
  • Have a condition affecting the brain or nerves (such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy)
  • Have a condition that means they have a high risk of getting infections (such as HIV)
  • Are taking medicine that can affect the immune system (such as low doses of steroids)
  • Have a problem with your spleen or have had your spleen removed
  • Have a weakened immune system due to treatment (such as steroids, radiotherapy, chemotherapy or biological therapy)
  • Have had an organ or bone marrow transplant
  • Have severe or multiple learning disabilities
  • Have a severe mental health condition (such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia)
  • Are very obese (a BMI of 40 or above)
  • Have a condition that your doctor advises puts you at higher risk

You may also be at higher risk if you have a weakened immune system. This includes people who:

  • Have or have had a blood cancer (such as leukaemia or lymphoma)
  • Have a weakened immune system due to treatment (such as steroids, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or biological therapy)
  • Have had an organ or bone marrow transplant
  • Have a condition that puts you at very high risk of getting infections
  • Have a condition that your doctor has told you weakens your immune system

What to do if you’re at higher risk

The government guidance for people at an increased risk is being updated regularly. Read the latest guidance on what is currently advised here.

COVID-19 vaccine

If you are at higher risk of COVID-19, it's important to have your COVID-19 vaccine, which you can book online. More information can be found here.

How to self-isolate

Those who are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should be particularly strict in following self-isolation measures.

See our guide

Where to get expert advice

  • Cancer

    If you are currently living with cancer or are worried for a friend or family member who has cancer, here you can access specific information about COVID-19 and cancer, continuing your treatment and tips on how to cope.

    Find out more

  • Diabetes

    Discover useful information on COVID-19 if you are living with diabetes, including why you are considered vulnerable, what to do if you have symptoms and when to seek medical help.

    Find out more

  • Heart disease

    If you are living with heart disease, here you can access detailed information on why you are considered high risk, what you should do, as recommended by the government and NHS.

    Find out more

  • Kidney disease

    Read the latest information and advice for patients living with kidney disease, including what to do if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and frequently asked questions.

    Find out more

  • Lung disease

    Read everything you need to know about the risks of COVID-19 if you are living with a lung disease or condition, including asthma, cystic fibrosis, mesothelioma, pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis and tuberculosis.

    Find out more

  • Mental health

    Whether you are living with a mental health condition or want advice on how to look after your mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak, here you’ll find helpful tips and advice on how to manage stress and worry.

    Find out more

  • Pregnancy

    If you are currently pregnant or living with a pregnant family member, here you can find detailed information on pregnancy and COVID-19.

    Find out more

  • Rheumatic diseases

    If you are living with a rheumatic disease, here you’ll find up-to-date information and advice on COVID-19, including the precautions you should take and what to do if you are showing symptoms.

    Find out more

Watch our video guides

  • How to wash your hands

  • How do you self-isolate?

  • How to look after someone with COVID-19