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Extra Pounds Can Prolong Your Flu Symptoms

Extra Pounds Can Prolong Your Flu Symptoms

Obese adults have a higher risk of experiencing complications from the flu than normal-weight adults.

The influenza pandemic of 1918 infected and affected almost everyone in the world. An estimated 50 million people died as a result, making it three times more deadly than World War 1, which claimed 16 million lives. As horrible as that was, an unchecked flu pandemic today could have even more devastating results.

A new NIH-funded study found, “obese adults with flu symptoms and laboratory-confirmed influenza shed influenza A virus for 42 percent longer than adults with flu who were not obese.” Meaning they can infect others for much longer than normal-weight folks. The study also notes that folks who have obesity don’t respond to the flu vaccine as positively as normal-weight folks and, if they get the flu, are far more likely to have complications and die.

The CDC has reported that almost 40 percent of American adults are obese—the highest rates ever recorded for the US. So it has never been more important to get your flu vaccine, whatever your weight. If you get the flu, practice infection control by staying home from work and washing your hands frequently. Also, keep your immune system healthy and increase the chance the flu vaccine will work by getting enough sleep and taking a multivitamin, especially in the week before your shot; reducing stress with meditation and exercise (10,000 steps daily; track them with the Sharecare app for iOS and Android); and eating healthfully by avoiding the Five Food Felons (trans and sat fats, added sugars and syrups and any grain that isn’t 100 percent whole), red meats, and highly processed foods.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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