3 things to know to help you avoid severe COVID-19

(BPT) – Although COVID-19 is not as prevalent as it was at its peak, it’s still something to be mindful of — especially if you have chronic conditions that might leave you more vulnerable to its effects.

The good news is, there are things you can do to help prevent contracting COVID-19 — and if you are more high-risk, there are ways to help avoid severe illness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), factors that increase your risk of severe COVID-19 include:

  • Those with other medical conditions
  • Those with weakened immune systems or who are immunocompromised
  • Older adults
  • Pregnant or recently pregnant individuals

Here are three things to be aware of to help you protect yourself from severe illness of COVID-19.

1. Vaccinations are a key line of defense against COVID-19

Even if you do manage to get COVID-19, vaccinations can help prevent severe illness, help limit the spread of disease, and potentially shorten your recovery time. Compared to those who are up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccinations, if you’re unvaccinated you’re more likely to be hospitalized or have severe complications from COVID-19, including death. Boosters are also available, and can help restore protection that might have decreased since a previous vaccination.

2. COVID-19 treatment is available

Paxlovid is an oral antiviral drug, fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), that has been shown to treat adults with a mild or moderate case of COVID-19 and help protect those who are at high risk of hospitalization or severe effects. Beginning Dec. 1, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made Paxlovid accessible as a $0 COVID-19 treatment through 2024 for eligible individuals without commercial insurance. With UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare Advantage plans, standalone Part D plans, and Medicaid plans, there is a $0 member cost-share for Paxlovid through the U.S. Government Patient Assistance Program operated by Pfizer. Remember, treatment must begin as soon as possible and within 5 days after symptoms arise in order to be effective.

3. Stay vigilant on prevention efforts

For those with elevated risk of COVID-19 complications, consider taking extra precautions to help avoid illness. This may include:

  • Improving ventilation and air filtration indoors or spending more time outdoors
  • Staying home if you suspect you may have COVID-19
  • Avoiding others who may be sick and wearing a high-quality mask, if that’s not possible, such as an N95
  • Avoiding crowded areas or increasing space and distance with others
  • Washing your hands often and avoiding sharing items with others

It’s good to be prepared and know what your options are if you contract COVID-19. Contact the number on the back of your health care plan ID card or connect with your health care provider if you have specific questions about your risks.