Taking probiotics may help reduce the impact of flu-like sickness

Father with two kids talking health economy and probiotics
6 Min read

Results from a high-quality study suggest that taking probiotics might help reduce the costs associated with flu-like sickness.1 In the US alone, consumption of probiotics was associated with reducing the number of sick days by over 54 million days per year.1


On average, people miss 1.7 days of work due to flu-like sickness.2

Flu-like sickness is common and places a burden on families & societies 

Flu-like sickness usually includes a fever of at least 100°F (37.8°C) and a cough or sore throat.3 It is estimated that the average number of symptomatic cases in the US is 33 million/year.4
Flu-like sickness is common and can be severe. Even with the costs of hospitalization excluded, flu-like sickness places a substantial burden on families, societies, and economies due to the costs associated with visiting the doctor’s office, medicine prescriptions, and loss of productivity in the workplace.5

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Probiotics may reduce the rate of flu-like sickness

More and more evidence suggests that probiotics support respiratory health, which helps lower the incidence of flu-like sickness.6, 7, 8 Several clinical studies have demonstrated the beneficial effect of the Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG® and Bifidobacterium, BB-12® probiotic strains (hereafter referred to by use of the trademarks LGG® and BB-12®) on the incidence, symptoms and duration of flu-like sickness.9, 10, 11, 12


Flu-like sickness symptoms include a runny nose and sore throat and are typically caused by respiratory tract infections.

The LGG® and BB-12® strains are associated with fewer symptoms and less days away from daycare

In clinical studies, daily intake of LGG® has been associated with a significant effect on: 
The number of children with upper respiratory tract infections11 
The number of respiratory tract infections lasting more than three days10, 11 
How long respiratory symptoms last11 
The number of digestive system issues lasting more than two days10 

Also, healthy children supplemented with LGG® had significantly fewer days away from daycare due to illness, compared to the placebo group.11 Read more about LGG® and probiotics and respiratory health

A similar effect was seen in adults.9 Healthy college students who received a combination of the LGG® and BB-12® probiotic strains for 12 weeks had 33% fewer days with symptoms of respiratory tract infection. Their symptoms were also less severe than those who received a placebo.9 Read more about BB-12® and supporting immune health with probiotics 

men walking in the city with bike talking health economy and probiotics

Probiotics may help limit the use of antibiotics 

Results from a 2019 study suggest that consuming probiotics can help to reduce the costs associated with flu-like sickness.1 The health economics study spanned five years and demonstrated that, in the US alone, the use of probiotics was associated with reducing the annual number of sick days by over 54 million.1 Interestingly, the study suggests that the use of probiotics could help avoid approximately 2.2 million courses of antibiotics per year.1 This means that 1 in 3 of all US antibiotic prescriptions could be unnecessary, suggesting probiotics might help avoid the overuse of antibiotics.  

Probiotics may have benefits for our health and the economy

The studies discussed suggest that if everyone living in America consumed probiotics, the incidence and costs of flu-like sickness would be significantly reduced. Therefore, supplementing with probiotics may not only be beneficial to health9, 10, 11, 12 but might also reduce the impact that flu-like sickness has on families, economies, and societies.1

Read more about probiotics for supporting immune health.

LGG® and BB-12® are registered trademarks of Chr. Hansen A/S.

The article is provided for informational purposes regarding probiotics and is not meant to suggest that any substance referenced in the article is intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent any disease.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG®

Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG® is the world’s most documented probiotic strain. The LGG® strain has proven benefits across all ages and numerous health areas, including gastrointestinal, immune and oral health.

LGG® is a registered trademark of Chr. Hansen A/S

LGG icon
Bifidobacterium, BB-12® 

The probiotic strain Bifidobacterium, BB-12® is the world’s most documented probiotic bifidobacterium. It has been extensively studied and has been associated with improved outcomes across various health areas.

BB-12® is a registered trademark of Chr. Hansen A/S

BB-12 consumer logo TM

References Open Close

1. Lenoir-Wijnkoop I, et al. Probiotics Reduce Health Care Cost and Societal Impact of Flu-Like Respiratory Tract Infections in the USA: An Economic Modeling Study. Front Pharmacol. 2019;10(980). (PubMed)
2. Palmer LA, et al. Effect of influenza-like illness and other wintertime respiratory illnesses on worker productivity: The child and household influenza-illness and employee function (CHIEF) study. Vaccine. 2010;28(31):5049-56. (PubMed)
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Estimated Influenza Disease Burden, by Season – United States, 2013-14 through 2017-18.
 4. Biggerstaff M, et al. Systematic Assessment of Multiple Routine and Near Real-Time Indicators to Classify the Severity of Influenza Seasons and Pandemics in the United States, 2003-2004 Through 2015-2016. Am J Epidemiol. 2018;187(5):1040-50. (PubMed)
 5. Putri W, et al. Economic burden of seasonal influenza in the United States. Vaccine. 2018;36(27):3960-6. (PubMed)
 6. Joint FAO/WHO Working Group Report on Drafting Guidelines for the Evaluation of Probiotics in Food. London, Ontario, Canada, 2002 April 30 and May 1.
 7. King S, et al. Effectiveness of probiotics on the duration of illness in healthy children and adults who develop common acute respiratory infectious conditions: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Nutr. 2014;112(1):41-54. (PubMed)
 8. Hao Q, et al. Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015(2):Cd006895. (PubMed)
 9. Smith TJ, et al. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis BB-12® on health-related quality of life in college students affected by upper respiratory infections. Br J Nutr. 2013;109(11):1999-2007. (PubMed)
 10. Hojsak I, et al. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of nosocomial gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections. Pediatrics. 2010;125(5):e1171-7. (PubMed)
 11. Hojsak I, et al. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections in children who attend day care centers: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Nutr. 2010;29(3):312-6. (PubMed)
 12. Rautava S, et al. Specific probiotics in reducing the risk of acute infections in infancy--a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Br J Nutr. 2009;101(11):1722-6. (PubMed)
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