What Does It Mean to Be Immunocompromised in the Time of COVID-19?

Words like vulnerable and immunocompromised have been used extensively in relation to COVID-19. And for those living with a compromised immune system, it’s a scary time.

While we know that older people are more vulnerable to illness, what makes a compromised immune system dangerous during this time? Here’s everything you need to know about being immunocompromised.

What does it actually mean to be immunocompromised?

It basically means you have a weakened immune system, so you’re unable to fight off infections and diseases as easily.

The causes of a compromised immune system are varied, according to Healthline. It could be because of certain medications, like those who have had organ transplants and are required to take immunosuppressant drugs.

Individuals with cancer, who are undergoing chemotherapy, or people with a chronic disease like cystic fibrosis and diabetes are also immunocompromised.

Other people are simply born with a weakened immune system, which is known as primary immune deficiency, whilst others might experience immune issues as they get older and develop an autoimmune disease. While all of these conditions are managed individually, there is nothing really that can be done to treat a weakened immune system.

Why is it dangerous to be immunocompromised?

The danger for those with compromised immune systems is that they have a harder time fighting off infection. So, the current COVID-19 pandemic poses a real-life threat for many people.

“In the event that someone is immunosuppressed, their immune system has slowed down and is not aggressive at recognising other things as well, like outside infections from viruses and bacteria,” Dr. David Mulligan, the chief of transplant surgery and immunology for Yale Medicine and president of UNOS, told Healthline.

“When we have new viruses that we don’t have medications to treat, and we don’t have a built-in immune system to protect against infections or a resistance to these types of infections, the new virus like COVID-19 can be more aggressive and have a more serious effect.”

While not all who are immunocompromised will suffer severe complications due to COVID-19, there is a higher risk of those compromised people needing ICU-level care.

According to research out of China, about 20% of COVID-19 cases are severe and can lead to serious complications.

This is why we need to stay home

To protect these people. Flattening the curve means staying at home as much as possible. If you’re healthy, the risks might not be that high for you. But for the immunocompromised, contracting COVID-19 could be life-threatening.

Over the weekend, individuals with compromised immune systems took to Twitter to share their stories, with the hashtag #HighRiskCovid19. These posts were shared in the hopes that the public start to take social distancing and the need to stay home more seriously.

If you’re still carrying on as if nothing has changed in your social life, spare a thought for these people who are taking every precaution to not get ill. Stay home. Don’t spend time in large crowds of people. Stick to those who live with. And please, wash your hands.

The current health crisis is evolving rapidly. If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

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