Preexisting Conditions That Put You at Higher Risk of COVID-19

If you have certain health conditions, you may be more susceptible to health complications from COVID-19.

During the pandemic, we've learned that certain people are at a higher risk of serious health complications from COVID-19. This risk may be increased in people who are older, pregnant, and recently pregnant, as well as people with pre-existing medical conditions.

These groups of people are more likely to be hospitalized, need intensive care, require a ventilator to help them breathe, or suffer fatal consequences if they have contracted COVID-19.

The pre-existing medical conditions have fluctuated as researchers have learned more about the effects of COVID-19 on different groups of people. In a study published in August 2021 in the journal BMC, researchers conducted an umbrella review of global data to determine the risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes in patients with pre-existing health conditions. The study identified heart failure, obesity, diabetes, liver cirrhosis, chronic kidney disease, active and hematological cancer, and history of organ transplantation as being associated with an increased risk of poor COVID-19-related outcomes such as hospitalization, need for intensive care, and death.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a list of medical conditions that put individuals at increased risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. The CDC notes that this list does not include all medical conditions that place a person at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Rare medical conditions, including many that primarily affect children, may not be included.

Conditions that may increase the risk for COVID-19 complications include the following.

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Chronic lung diseases
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Dementia or other neurological conditions
  • Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
  • Disabilities
  • Heart conditions
  • HIV infection
  • Immunocompromised condition or weakened immune system
  • Mental health conditions
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease or thalassemia
  • Smoking, current or former
  • Solid organ or blood stem cell transplant
  • Stroke or cerebrovascular disease
  • Substance use disorders
  • Tuberculosis

The CDC offers additional information about these medical conditions.

If any of these conditions apply to you, it's important to take precautions to protect yourself from getting COVID-19. These precautions include staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and following preventive measures for COVID-19, such as: Wearing a well-fitting mask, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, testing to prevent the spread to others, washing your hands often, covering coughs and sneezes, and monitoring your health daily.

In addition, treatment options may be available to lower your chance of becoming very sick. Ask your healthcare provider if you may be eligible for treatments.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.

To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles