True story… the concept of “man flu” really exists, according to research

August 23, 2019


I’ve always felt a bit guilty about using the term “man flu” – a man’s exaggeration of symptoms from a minor illness such as a cold. This is because I feel it’s a bit derogatory, plus my husband is so stoic and still makes me coffee and does all the things around the house even when he’s sick, without complaint. (this could say more about my laziness than his stoicism…)

Anyway, there are other reasons though that we shouldn’t diss a guy’s “man flu”. According to research, men might really experience worse symptoms than women after getting a respiratory virus.

The research was published in the medical journal The BMJ. Dr Kyle Sue, a clinical assistant professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, who authored the BMJ piece, they found evidence that men might have a weaker immune response to the viruses that cause colds or flu.

A 2008 study found that women had a stronger immune response to the flu vaccine, which means they produce greater levels of antibodies against the virus strains in the vaccine, compared with men.

“The concept of man flu, as commonly defined, is potentially unjust,” Sue wrote in the piece. “Men may not be exaggerating symptoms but have weaker immune responses to viral respiratory viruses, leading to greater morbidity and mortality than seen in women,” he said.

It’s not clear why men may have a weaker immune response to respiratory viruses, but hormones could play a role, with the “female” hormone oestrogen, in particular, providing protection against these viruses, Sue said.

Some studies have suggested that the “male” hormone testosterone may lower the body’s immune response to flu viruses. One study reviewed six years of data, and showed that men were hospitalised with the flu more often than women. Another reported more deaths among men than women owing to flu. Men have also been found to take longer to recover from flu-like illnesses than women – three days vs 1.5 days.

Another theory suggests that early man evolved to require more prolonged rest while sick to conserve energy and avoid predators. In more modern times, the advantage of a longer recovery time is less clear beyond the obvious. When you don’t feel well, it’s nice to be taken care of. However, that’s true for women as well.

Moral of the story? Let’s acknowledge our illnesses and be kind, and not diss anyone’s reactions to colds and flu, right?

And here’s more of my five cents – if you want to give yourself a better shot at preventing colds and flu, for the rest of winter and beyond, then wash your hands regularly, and at the first sign of sickness, rest and take some decent meds.

Each time I feel that scratchy throat come on, or I’m getting really tired/sore, I take some Linctagon Effervescent.

The Linctagon range contains Pelargonium sidoides, a medicinal plant native to South Africa. Research has shown that Pelargonium shortens the duration of an infection, and reduces the severity of one. It is effective for treating upper and lower respiratory infections, and even though winter is almost over, flu and colds still happen beyond, so it’s worth keeping some in the medicine box all-year round.

 You can find out more about Linctagon on their website, or Facebook page.

Stock images: Shutterstock

References: Harvard Health Publishing, BMJ

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