DEC 12, 2017 1:22 PM PST

The 'Man-Flu' is Real, Apparently

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Image credit: Pixabay.com

A new study that claims the “man-flu” is real, is undoubtedly making some men feel vindicated while drawing numerous eye rolls from their female counterparts.

In recent times, the term “man-flu” has gained so much popularity that it’s won a formal definition in both the Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries. There, the condition is defined as “a cold or similar minor ailment as experienced by a man who is regarded as exaggerating the severity of the symptoms.” In essence, what a female may consider to be a common and mild illness, a man afflicted with the “man-flu” would deemed to be life-threatening. Of note, the condition isn’t strictly limited to the flu. In fact, it more commonly refers to colds and other minor illnesses.

Perhaps fed up with the injustice of this colloquial diagnosis, Dr. Kyle Sue, a researcher from the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, attempted to set the record straight with hard scientific evidence.

"It's a frequently heard stereotype," said Dr. Sue. He hoped his research would “provide evidence for men around the world to defend themselves."

On a quest to vindicate men everywhere accused of being “wimps” or “crybabies,” Dr. Sue combed through the available literature that reported on health and immune conditions between the sexes.

In these studies, Dr. Sue found evidence of what he terms an “immunity gap,” which refers to immune differences between males and females.

"There are a couple of studies that show women having more local and systemic reactions to the flu shot than men," he said. In addition, he suggests that women may be "more responsive to vaccinations than men."

"Epidemiologic data from Hong Kong showed that adult men had a higher risk of hospital admission for flu," he added. Men just may be biologically cursed with a weaker immune system than their female counterparts.

Indeed, a previous study found that estrogen, also known as the female hormone, has protective qualities against the flu virus. And while men also have estrogen, their levels are not high enough to offer protection in males.

Men have to deal with a double whammy when it comes to hormones and immunity, argues Dr. Sue. In addition to not being able to reap any protection from estrogen, the male hormone testosterone could make them more likely to get sick. "It is not commonly known that testosterone is immunosuppressive," Dr. Sue explained, "one study has found that men with higher testosterone levels had less of an antibody response to vaccination."

The overall conclusion? Diagnosing men with the “man-flu” is not only unfair to this half of the world’s population, but it could prevent men from getting the care they need.

"The concept of man flu, as commonly defined, is potentially unjust. 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 said.

So how likely are we to have a societal shift in the treatment of men afflicted with the cold or other common illnesses? If the increased sensitivity shown towards women surrounding premenstrual syndrome and menstrual cramps is any indication, there’s hope for men too.

Additional sources: CNN, MNT

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
SEP 13, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
SEP 13, 2019
Apple Watch New Research App: A Boon to Women's Health
The Apple company, in 2018, enrolled more than 400,000 people in its Apple Heart Study conducted in partnership with Stanford University researchers....
NOV 01, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 01, 2019
Cancer Therapy Agents Inspired by Solar Technology
In a recent study, a group of biomedical researchers at Michigan State University developed a new platform for tweaking light-activated dyes that can enable diagnostic imaging, image-guided s...
DEC 05, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
DEC 05, 2019
Catching drug-resistant HIV mutants with next generation sequencing
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive individuals are treated with antiretroviral therapies to reduce the amount of circulating virus, restore their...
DEC 23, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
DEC 23, 2019
Long awaited at-home test gives hemophiliacs peace of mind
Haemophilia is a genetically-inherited condition that severely affects an individual’s ability to stop bleeding. Blood clotting is a natural protecti...
JAN 07, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
JAN 07, 2020
Saliva Test for Early Detection of Mouth and Throat Cancer
“OPC is one of the fastest rising cancers in Western countries due to increasing HPV-related incidence, especially in younger patients. It is paramou...
JAN 21, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
JAN 21, 2020
Brain scans of teens predict their risk of binge drinking
We’ve seen teenage binge drinking widely represented in popular culture. There is, however, a dark side to what many consider harmless fun. Mounting...
Loading Comments...