‘Man Flu’ may be real, after all

May 9, 2018

We all have heard of the “man cold” and the “man flu.” In fact, this condition is so widely recognized that it even has its own citation in the Cambridge English Dictionary, according to a report released on May 8 by Study Finds.

That venerated tome defines man flu as “an illness such as a cold that is not serious, but that the person has it treats as more serious, usually when this person is a man.”

But, based on a new study, men who come down with a bug may actually not be the peevish, whining babies that we all perceive.

Skeptics have brushed off the man flu as no more than a common upper respiratory ailment that men tend to exaggerate. Intrigued by this phenomenon and by the lack of research specifically on whether man flu is an appropriate or accurate term, Dr. Kyle Sue, a clinical associate professor at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, decided to see if the condition was real, once and for all.

Examining medical records and other related research, Dr. Sue concluded that men are more likely to be admitted to a hospital and are more susceptible to serious complications and death from respiratory diseases such as influenza than are women across all age groups.

“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,” Dr. Sue says in a University press release. “However, there may be an evolutionary benefit to a less robust immune system, as it has allowed men to invest their energy in other biological processes, such as growth, secondary sex characteristics, and reproduction.”

While he can’t conclude for certain whether men have weaker immune systems than women, the doctor found evidence for that claim.

He says more research is needed “because it remains uncertain whether viral quantities, immune response, symptoms, and recovery time can be affected by environmental conditions.”

The study was covered by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Research contact: support@bmj.com

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