Man flu real? Women will just have to get over it…

Phillip Cunningham
December 13, 2017

In compiling other studies, he discovered men are more likely to be admitted to the hospital for flu symptoms than women, that women generally have a better response to vaccination than men, and in one observational study, more men had flu-related deaths in the United States between 1997-2007.

In an article in The British Journal of Medicine, Dr. Kyle Sue, exhausted of being accused of overreacting when it came to getting a cold, turned to empirical research on the subject to determine whether "men really experience worse symptoms and whether this could have any evolutionary basis".

His study also noted that a seasonal influenza study from 2004 to 2010 in Hong Kong found men had higher rates of hospital admission, and a decade-long American observational study that ended in 2007 suggested men had higher rates of flu-related deaths in comparison to women.

"It's a frequently heard stereotype", said Dr. Kyle Sue, author of the study and an assistant professor of family medicine at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada.

Men can wheeze a sigh of relief today, after a scientific review claimed that the phenomenon known as "man flu" may well exist. Other patient-based studies similarly indicated that the onset of a flu may trigger a stronger immune response among women than men, blunting the full impact of symptoms. He pointed to two studies that used human samples that showed exposure to estrogen and oestradiol (prominently found in women) weakened normal flu symptoms. "This is supported by the finding that women report more local and systemic reactions to influenza vaccine than men in questionnaires", Dr. Sue wrote.

"The point I want to make is that whether males or females suffer more really depends a lot on our age", said Klein, whose own research is referenced by Sue. "And they're worse. The whole point of doing this article is to prove that men are not wimps". 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.


Still, some research suggests that men have more severe respiratory tract infection symptoms than women, she said.

According to some experts, the "man flu" is real Is man flu real? In times of illness, it allows men to conserve their energy by lying on the couch or not getting out of bed.

In his conclusion, Sue says the idea of "man flu" and suggestions males exaggerate their suffering is potentially unjust.

Sue does have some tongue-in-cheek advice on how to best combat the affliction.

Sue acknowledged that more research is needed. Several studies in Sue's research suggest that testosterone has an immunosuppresive effect, while several others suggest that female sex hormones boost women's immune system.

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