sick man

Understanding man flu

Is man flu a real illness? Let's look at the science behind the dreaded disease.

A sore throat, aches and pains all over and a general feeling of wooziness. Men all over Australia are familiar with the dreaded symptoms that mean man flu is about to strike. To the mockery of wives, girlfriends and the wider female population, men seem to (anecdotally at least) be nowhere near as well equipped as the fairer sex to handle colds and flu.

But recent findings indicate that there may actually be some substance to the man flu myth. It might be time to start taking flu-stricken men more seriously. Or maybe not.

What are the symptoms of man flu?

Most Australians are familiar with the concept of man flu or a man cold. The common symptoms are those of a normal cold or flu, but worse:

  • Raging headaches
  • Crippling aches and pains
  • Sore throat
  • Disorienting dizziness
  • General lethargy and complaining

The science behind man flu

For years, man flu has been the subject of many heated debates between the sexes. Men just need to toughen up, women have claimed.

But a number of recent scientific findings have indicated that man flu may very well be real. Studies have shown that while testosterone weakens the immune response to viral infections in men, oestrogen holds anti-viral qualities that help limit the spread of an attacking virus.

A study released in late 2016 revealed that some viral infections have evolved to be more severe in men than in women. The study, conducted by researchers at Royal Holloway at the University of London, found that women’s bodies may be have evolved to fend off viral infections so as not to pass the infection on to babies during pregnancy.

And when you consider the fact that men have more temperature receptors in the brain than women and therefore experience worse symptoms, man flu starts to seem less like a laughing matter and more like a serious male affliction.

So man flu is a real illness?

Despite this evidence it might not be time to start taking man flu too seriously.

While there’s a growing amount of research behind man flu, this body of evidence is not enough to confirm that the flu or common cold affects men more severely than it does women.

Of course, there’s still plenty of anecdotal evidence that this is the case and most men will tell you that there are few things worse than the fatigue, pain and devastation of a severe bout of man flu.

But if the man in your life tells you his flu symptoms are as painful as childbirth, he probably just needs to man up.

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Tim Falk

A writer with a passion for the written word, Tim loves helping Australians compare and find the right products. When he's not chained to a computer, Tim can usually be found exploring the great outdoors.

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