Men have gained notoriety for suffering from what’s become known as the “man cold” or “man flu”. It’s so prevalent that even legitimate dictionaries have defined it. Take the venerable Oxford English Dictionary, for example: It defines the man flu as a “cold or similar minor ailment as experienced by a man who is regarded as exaggerating the severity of the symptoms”. Any woman would tell you that’s a pretty spot-on definition, but most men insist that their colds are downright horrible and warrant every complaint.
Dr. Kyle Sue, a researcher at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, is out to prove that men may not be overreacting when it comes to the dreaded man flu. He reviewed existing studies and evidence presented in disease patterns in an attempt to find out whether the popular idea that men are just exaggerating is actually accurate.
Sue found that men are actually more likely to be admitted into the hospital with the flu than women, and that the rates of “influenza-associated deaths” are higher in men than in women. The studies Sue reviewed also suggested that men are more prone to respiratory illnesses and complications. Some studies showed that, in mice, the females’ immune systems were more active than the males’.
Sue notes that there’s more research to be done. “It remains uncertain whether viral quantities, immune response, symptoms, and recovery time can be affected by environmental conditions,” he said, according to Medical News Today. One study suggested the testosterone may play a role in inhibiting the immune system.
Despite the need for more research, his conclusion so far is that harm can sometimes come from the common assumption that “man flu” is a symptom of overreacting.
“The concept of ‘man flu,’ as commonly defined, is potentially unjust,” Sue says. “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.”
The results may not 100% confirm the existence of the man flu, but, if anything, you’ve definitely got some ammo to stop your girlfriend from making fun of you for whining about your aching, man flu-weakened body.