Is ‘man flu’ a thing? Researcher says yep

By Greg Hamilton • Published: February 16th, 2018
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s a staple of comedy routines and TV shows, the tough guy who can run through a brick wall and feel no pain but who becomes a puddle of pitiful, simpering fluff at the first hint of a cold or the flu. There’s even a name for this condition: man flu.

For all those guys who have ever been told to “man up’’ as they sneezed and coughed, there’s a ray of hope. Writing in the British Medical Journal, a researcher at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada argues that men are the weaker sex when it comes to immunology.

Women are better at fighting off common infectious diseases, he said, citing studies including one that showed higher rates of flu-related deaths for men than women in the United States between 1997 and 2007.

Research in cell cultures, animal models and humans shows the female hormone estrogen promotes strong immunological responses to infections. Testosterone, by contrast, has an immunosuppressive effect.

The author then veered into evolution. Over the millennia, men had to fight for the chance to reproduce, while women needed to endure to nurture their offspring. If males burnt energy fighting off infections, they would not grow bigger, stronger and faster — the kind of mates women were seeking.

He even suggests women may share the blame: If they had picked punier men with stronger immune systems instead of the stud muffins they were attracted to, man flu might never have become a thing.

With tongue firmly in cheek, the author urged the creation of spaces equipped with enormous televisions and reclining chairs where men can recover from the debilitating effects of man flu in safety and comfort. All in the interest of public health, of course.