Uncovering Seven (7) Risk Factors That Boost the Likelihood of You Getting Covid-19, Flu, or RSV

Joseph R. Anticaglia, MD
Medical Advisory board

Our immune system’s job is to protect us against foreign invaders, including respiratory viruses such as COVID-19, Flu and RSV. On September 4th of this year, 72 year old First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, for the second time tested positive for Covid-19. Mrs. Biden initially tested positive for this virus in August 2022. Might her immune system be less than optimal, placing her at greater risk and making her more vulnerable to respiratory viruses and COVID-19?

Seven (7) Risk Factors Affecting Your Health

Anyone can get sick from a viral infection and most people recover from the illness after several days with no complications, However, a supposedly mild infection in some individuals can have dire consequences. The CDC and others talk about groups of people who are at an increased risk of getting seriously sick from viral infections because of their age or medical condition. One of the following groups may apply to you or someone you care about:

1) Infants and Children Under the Age of 5

The first group of people at a higher risk of getting very sick from respiratory viruses are infants and children under the age of 5. The immune system of these children are not fully developed, making them more susceptible to infections. In addition, their airways are anatomically smaller compared to adults and infections can cause swelling of the airways making it harder for them to breathe.

2) Older Adults

Why are older adults more prone to getting sick from infections? Aging weakens the immune system, making older adults more prone to infections. They may also have underlying health conditions that further increase their risk. The older you get, the more vulnerable you are to infections.

3) Immunocompromised People

People with debilitated immune systems, such as HIV individuals, or those receiving medications for cancers or after organ transplants, are more susceptible to viral and other infections. Besides weakened defenses against viruses and infections, they may have difficulty building lasting protection against diseases.

4) Pregnancy

Pregnancy places stress on the body, changing a woman’s immune response and making them more vulnerable to respiratory infections.

5) People With Disabilities

Individuals with deformities like scoliosis or kyphosis, or persons who rely on ventilators for breathing assistance, such as those with spinal cord injuries, or people with disabilities who use wheelchairs are at an increased risk of developing respiratory illnesses.

6) Underlying Health Conditions

For instance; people with asthma, heart disease, lung problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,(COPD), cystic fibrosis weaken the body’s defenses and make people more prone to develop respiratory complications.

7) Vaccine Hesitancy

When medical experts and scientists recommend vaccinations against certain diseases, and people refuse to become vaccinated, they place themselves and others at higher risk of becoming severely sick. There is strong evidence to indicate that vaccinations leads to fewer illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths.

Of course, there are several other risk factors that can increase an individual’s vulnerability to COVID-19, the flu, and RSV. For example; smoking, substance abuse, poor diet and crowded living conditions may interact with the 7 risk factors and further increase the likelihood of severe respiratory illness.

The above risk groups — because of age, weakened immune system, underlying health condition and vaccine hesitancy — make people more vulnerable to serious infections. It’s recommended that people aged six months and older stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and received a seasonal flu vaccine.

If you are over 60 years of age and older talk to your healthcare provider to see if RSV vaccination is right for you.


  1. CDC; Protect yourself from Covid-19, Flu, and RSV; 2023
  2. Joseph R. Anticaglia, MD; RSV Threat to Infants and Elderly; Doctor’s Column HC Smart, December 5, 2022
  3. Joseph R. Anticaglia, MD; Omicron Variant: COVID Rules Have not Changed! Doctor’s Column Smart, January 2022
  4. Wenzhe Yu et al; Viral Infections During Pregnancy; Matern Feta Med;, Jan 4, 2022


RSV — Respiratory Syncytial Virus

This article is intended solely as a learning experience. Please consult your physician for diagnostic and treatment options.