Obesity & COVID-19

Last updated: April 27

Based on what we know so far about COVID-19, people who live with obesity and who have other health concerns have increased risk of more severe illness after contracting the virus than the general population. Your physician can review your medical record to give you a greater understanding of your personal risk.

Here are answers to some common questions related to obesity and COVID-19. Please note that these answers are subject to change as we receive more information about COVID-19. If you have additional questions not answered here, call your physician or the Northwestern Medicine COVID-19 hotline at 312.47.COVID (312.472.6843).

Frequently Asked Questions

People who live with obesity do not appear to be more likely to contract COVID-19. However, those who have a body mass index greater than 40 are more likely to have serious complications from COVID-19.

People who live with obesity often have chronic inflammation in their bodies and other health conditions, like diabetes, heart disease and heart failure, that put them at higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19. All of these diseases weaken the body’s ability to fight an infection like COVID-19.

Scientists are also exploring the connection between excess body fat and complications from COVID-19, even when the person does not have other health conditions.

A COVID-19 infection increases inflammation in the body, which is a normal response to conquer infection. If a person lives with obesity, they could experience a weakened immune response and more severe complications from COVID-19.

Keep at least a 2-week supply of your medications and contact your physician if you need refills. To refill your prescription, you can limit exposure to the virus by using a mail-order service or drive-thru pharmacy, or have a caregiver pick up your medication.

Physicians recommend that people who live with obesity adhere to the recommendations released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prioritizing extreme physical distancing and hand hygiene. You should also exercise, eat well, reduce stress and get plenty of sleep.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, such as a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath, call your physician for guidance.

If you have been exposed to someone who received a COVID-19 diagnosis, you should self-isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms of the virus. If you begin to experience symptoms, call your physician.