COVID-19 and medicines advice for older people

Good practice guide
Good practices guides focus on providing information on a clinical topic.
Henry Woodford
Date Published:
17 March 2020
Last updated: 
17 March 2020

Older people are particularly at risk from complications as a result of COVID-19 and many are likely to already be taking medication for other conditions. This information is intended for healthcare professionals.

At the present time there are no medications that can treat COVID-19 or prevent people from becoming infected. Most people experience an illness similar to the flu and should be encouraged to self-manage in a similar way. It is particularly important for people to try to maintain fluid intake if they are ill. Aches and pains are likely to be helped by paracetamol.

Occasionally people with a COVID-19 viral infection can go on to develop pneumonia caused by bacteria. People who experience their illness worsening, especially if they start to cough up sputum, should be considered for antibiotic treatment.

People who are unwell may reduce their daily fluid intake, which increases the risk of dehydration. Some medications can either increase dehydration or potentially become harmful to the kidneys in these circumstances. These include:

  • Diuretics
  • ACE inhibitors/angiotensin receptor blockers
  • NSAIDs
  • Metformin

If your patients are taking any of these medications and are less able to take fluids then you should consider whether they should temporarily stop taking these medications. Most medications should be continued even while you are unwell.

Patients with COVID-19 or those undergoing social distancing or self-isolation may be unable to pick up their usual prescriptions. Talk to your patients about who they can ask to collect their prescriptions on their behalf and help them to formulate a plan. If they do not have anyone who can support them in this way, consider local voluntary groups who may be able to help them.

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