Sometimes Being a Popular Kid Can Just Make You Sick

Filed under: In The News, Weird But True, Teen Culture, Research Reveals: Teens, Health

Mean Girls movie

A pox on the popular kids! Credit: Michael Gibson, Paramount Pictures / AP

Did you ever wish God would send a plague -- just one tiny little plague -- to the popular kids in high school?

Nothing spectacular. Frogs raining from the sky on prom night would be a nice touch. Sorry, God is fresh out of frogs. Yet take heart. The Lord heareth the prayers of the chess club.

It turns out popular kids get the first -- and strongest -- forms of the flu. (You dorks out there can take a moment to do that nasally laugh of yours.)

The Los Angeles Times reports a study published online Sept. 15 by PLoS One, the journal of the Public Library of Science, concludes popular teens get the flu first because they travel in even larger packs than the "Dungeons and Dragons" groups.

Researchers asked 319 Harvard University undergrads to name two or three friends, coming up with a list of 425 other students. The idea here is that friends you name are likely to be more popular than you.

Then researchers monitored two groups of students -- a random group and the popular kids -- during last year's flu season. Guess what? Buffy, Muffy, Chad and other members of the "in-crowd" got the flu two weeks earlier than everyone else when the virus was particularly strong.

You know what this means?

Just like the proverbial canaries in the coal mine who are the first to pass out from toxic gas, popular kids might alert the rest of the society to the coming of an epidemic. And that might give the brainiacs of society time to protect everyone else.

As the Times points out, vaccines tend to come out weeks or months after an epidemic has peaked and only protect a small slice of the population that has managed to avoid getting sick (possibly because of -- wink, wink -- social isolation).

And most ways of tracking flu outbreaks are only effective as the outbreaks are happening. Not before.

All this brings to mind a certain movie that came out in 1984 with a catchy theme song. Sing along if you know the tune:

"So if they call you a dork, a spaz or geek, stand up and be proud! Don't be meek! Beautiful people, haven't you hard? The joke's on you. It's revenge of the nerds!"

Related: Kids, Adults Should Get Flu Vaccine, American Lung Association Urges


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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.