Laid up with 'man flu'? It's real, researcher claims

Miguel Roberts | The Brownsville Herald via AP | BDN

Miguel Roberts | The Brownsville Herald via AP | BDN

A new study seems to confirm a long-time theory that women handle the flu better than men.

In opening his article, Sue notes that the term "man flu" has become so common that it has been included in the Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries and he wanted to "explore whether men are wimps or just immunologically inferior".

The article, published in the British Medical Journal, involved a wry look at previous studies and put forward a number of strands of evidence that suggest men might really experience worse symptoms than women when it comes to viral respiratory illnesses.

After analyzing relevant research on the topic, Sue found evidence that men have both a higher risk of hospital admission and higher rates of flu-related deaths compared with women.

"This is shown in the fact that they [have] worse symptoms, they last longer, they are more likely to be hospitalised and more likely to die from it". Saying, "Studies of influenza vaccination suggest that women are more responsive to vaccination than men".

Research in cell cultures, animal models and humans shows that variants of the female hormone estrogen promote strong immunological responses to vaccinations and infections, Sue writes.

"The concept of man flu, as commonly defined, is potentially unjust", Sue wrote in the paper.

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"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 argues. It's the idea that if a man is complaining of having a cold, he is most likely blowing things out of all proportion and should just get a grip - even if he's just coughed a lung up onto the coffee table. During the reproductive years, it is women who often suffer more severe disease, in part because flu is worse for pregnant women but also because women develop higher - nearly excessive - inflammatory responses to flu.

Sue adds, tongue-in-cheek: "Classic modes of energy conservation may include lying on the couch, not getting out of bed, or receiving assistance with basic activities of daily living, which could all be effective for avoiding predators".

I wonder who funded this pointless #ManFlu research?

"No scientific review has examined whether the term "man flu" is appropriately defined or just an ingrained pejorative term with no scientific basis", he writes in an article published December 11 in the British Medical Journal.

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More than half the women who took part (55 per cent) said their bloke regularly "exaggerated" the symptoms and 49 per cent went as far as to say this sparked arguments.

Sue acknowledged that more research is needed.

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