This past week, news outlets and social media users have been buzzing about the “man flu”. If you’re like most people, you’re wondering: what is it, who does it affect, and is it real? In this article, we’ll answer all of these burning questions and more.
What is it?
“Man flu” has been around for quite some time, even though the term has become a buzzword over the past week or so. Anecdotally, at least, men are often teased or belittled for “exaggerating” symptoms of relatively minor illnesses. “Man flu”, then, is a nickname for ailments of these complaining, overreaching, under-the-weather men.
Well, one Canadian physician, a male, grew tired of other medical professionals not taking his complaints seriously. Dr. Kyle Sue, a researcher, set out to prove that “man flu” really existed.
He found, according to a CNN article, evidence of an “immunity gap” between men and women.
Dr. Sue reported his findings to the British Medical Journal, which published his research earlier this week. The crux: that the immunity gap between man and women does exist, and that men are more susceptible to complications from minor illnesses like the common cold.
Said Dr. Sue about flus: "Men are more susceptible to them, symptoms are worse, they last longer, and men are more likely to be hospitalized and die from the flu."
Why would there be an immunity gap between men and women?
Dr. Sue believes this gap is evolutionary. There are multiple working theories to explain this phenomena, but Dr. Sue points to hormonal differences as a key contributor.
Said Dr. Sue to the BMJ: "It is not commonly known that testosterone is immunosuppressive. “One study found that men with higher testosterone levels had less of an antibody response to vaccination."
Dr. Sue continues to discuss how hormones may have driven down men’s ability to fight illnesses. Could boosted levels of testosterone, which make men more aggressive, pushed men to be so competitive that their drive to win harmed their immune systems?
Continues Dr. Sue: “Epidemiologic data from Hong Kong showed that adult men had a higher risk of hospital admission for flu.” Dr. Sue was quick to note that other factors, such as smoking rates of these sick men and women, were not available to study.
Still, Dr. Sue admits he is not entirely sure how to explain the immunity gap.
Who does man flu affect?
Don’t assume that “man flu” affects all men! It is mostly describing the ailments of the young and the old.
CNN spoke to Dr. Sabra Klein of Johns Hopkins University about the findings. Said Dr. Klein: “The point I want to make is that whether males or females suffer more really depends a lot on our age.”
Klein noted that rates of hospitalization are highest for prepubescent boys and men over the age of 65.
Is the “man flu” real?
That’s the big question. While anecdotal evidence points to man perhaps suffering from less powerful immune systems, other researchers just don’t buy it.
Dr. Ebbing Lautenbach, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, says to CBS News that while compelling, Dr. Sue’s analysis does not truly prove that a "man's response to a respiratory infection is, in fact, worse than a woman's and, if so, by how much. Much more work needs to be done to figure out whether differences exists and, if so, what biological mechanisms might explain them."
What can I do to protect myself from “man flu”?
There are five major steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Eat a balanced, nutritious diet that includes vitamin C and zinc
- Get restful, quality sleep each night
- Exercise regularly
- Practice appropriate hand washing technique
- Get a flu shot unless your doctor tells you otherwise
If you aren’t feeling well, drink fluids and get plenty of rest.
You can also stock up on EZC Pak with physician formulated organic Echinacea purpurea, zinc, and vitamin C.
Remember: antibiotics will not help if you have the flu. The flu is a viral infection, not a bacterial one, and using antibiotics could put you and others at risk instead of helping you recover.