DEC 12, 2017 01:22 PM PST

The 'Man-Flu' is Real, Apparently


Image credit:

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
You May Also Like
APR 14, 2018
APR 14, 2018
A Vaccine for When Cancer Forms from Human Retroviruses
A vaccine to prevent leukemia and other diseases of the immune system caused by a specific viral infection is now a very real idea. A new study from Kyoto ...
APR 23, 2018
APR 23, 2018
UroSEEK: Early Bladder and Urothelial Cancer Urine Screening Test Developed to Complement Urine Cytology
New, non-invasive urine screening test called UroSEEK was developed by Johns Hopkins to detect low grade bladder and urothelial cancers using DNA detection methods and technology....
MAY 04, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
MAY 04, 2018
New Blood Test Detects Peanut Allergy with 98% Specificity
A new blood test trumps traditional diagnostic methods for determining peanut allergy, the most common allergy for children. From the Medical Research Coun...
MAY 29, 2018
MAY 29, 2018
Environmental Factors Drive Belly Fat Buildup
Abdominal fat is a major risk factor for disease. New work could help find those at risk for increased belly fat, and help reverse that trend....
JUL 03, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
JUL 03, 2018
Blood Test Deciphers Your Internal Rhythm
A personalized reading of your circadian rhythm could help scientists prescribe the exact time of day that drug treatments will be the most effective. A ne...
SEP 21, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
SEP 21, 2018
We will teach you to be a doctor, said us to the machine.
Clinical diagnosis are now possible in the hands of computers through machine learning. Whence, the reports of successful trials for the diagnostics....
Loading Comments...