Is Man Flu Really a Thing? Here’s what you should know.

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Just in time for the holiday season, men may have just received the reprieve they’ve often wanted when confronted with women who believe them to be exaggerating their symptoms while sick.

The term “man flu” is one that has been used so commonly among people, women in particular, that it now has earned its place in the Oxford Dictionary. The phrase is used to describe relatively minor ailments that put men, often believed to be exaggerating their symptoms, out of commission.

One professor, Dr. Kyle Sue, set out to determine, once and for all, whether men were merely being wimps for their seeming susceptibility to more severe effects of otherwise minor illnesses or if they might somehow be inferior in an immunological capacity. His results appeared in the December 11, 2017 edition of the British Medical Journal (BMJ.)

Men Flu Origination

Dr. Sue, who is a clinical assistant professor in family medicine, was concerned that deeming the severity of men’s symptoms of flu and viral respiratory illnesses as exaggerated could not only impact how men react to their illnesses (including whether they seek the care of a doctor or not), but also how they were treated for these symptoms. For this reason, he sought scientific evidence to support the claims of men with flu as legitimate or dismiss them scientifically.

What Dr. Sue discovered in male mice vs. female mice is that mice of both sexes injected with bacteria designed to trigger an immunological response similar to what they would experience if they contracted the flu is that males and females had different immunological responses.

The female mice, in this study, had much stronger initial reactions, but recovered far more quickly. In contrast, the male mice had much more intense and longer lasting responses with greater reductions in body temperature and more signs of inflammation in their bloodstreams. Researchers even reported that the male mice showed more visible signs of misery (shivering, huddling together, and droopy eyes) than the female mice.

Another thing the study noted was that men who had higher levels of testosterone were often the ones with the greatest difficulties and most severe symptoms. The belief is that it could be an evolutionary defense mechanism to keep men, who were once more likely to die from trauma than infections, off fields of battle and out of the way of predators until they were fully recovered.

Signs and Symptoms of Man Flu

Symptoms of man flu are identical to those of traditional flu or even an upper respiratory cold. They may include things like fever, chills, shivering, coughing, aching, and general misery.

While it may be tempting for women who must carry on when ill to deride men for seeking comfort or help when they are sick with man flu, it should never be at the expense of encouraging men not to seek the care of a doctor when ill.

While the jury is still out, and far greater evidence is needed as to whether man flu exists, this study does suggest that men may have a strong defense the next time they are accused of laying it on a little thick when down with a cold or the flu.


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