Review of scientific studies suggests 'man flu' may be more intense: researcher

Miguel Roberts | The Brownsville Herald via AP | BDN

Dr Sue went on to determine whether men really experience worse symptoms than women.

In opening his article, Sue notes that the term "man flu" has become so common that it has been included in the Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries and he wanted to "explore whether men are wimps or just immunologically inferior".

Bad news ladies - apparently the men in your lives are not overreacting when they whinge about coming down with the "man flu". He points out that some studies show that women may be more responsive to vaccinations, that some data from Hong Kong points to the fact men have a higher risk to be admitted to a hospital for the flu, and according to an American study, men die more from the flu than women of the same age. Men are also more likely to be hospitalized for flu and other respiratory illnesses.

Although the term is commonly used (particularly in the United Kingdom), no scientific review so far has examined whether the term is appropriate or accurate, said Dr. Kyle Sue, a clinical assistant professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, who authored the BMJ review.

Talking to the Guardian, Dr. Sue said to the publication, "There need to be more studies, higher quality studies that control for other factors between men and women before we can definitely say that this difference in immunity exists".

To start, he reviewed testing in mice claiming that female mice showed a stronger immune response to dealing with an illness than men. On the other side, female hormones could boost it.

Still, Klein, who was not involved in the new study, appreciates that Sue is helping to shed light on gender health differences, "which often are ignored".


Yet, doctors and women alike have long noticed that men tend to bemoan those symptoms more than women.

Still, Sue found support for the idea that men suffer more from viral respiratory illnesses than women because they have less-robust immune systems. "But I think everyone should be given the benefit of the doubt when they are ill". "We already screen men earlier for cardiovascular diseases because they are more susceptible".

However Dr Sue observed that men might get sicker from flu as an important strategy for survival from caveman times such as lying on the couch, not getting out of bed, or receiving assistance with activities could be evolutionary behaviours that protect against predators.

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

Just in time for flu season, a in the Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal explores the science behind a debate that has annoyed sniffling, coughing men and infuriated women for years.

Sue acknowledged that more research is needed.

He said some studies have also suggested that testosterone may suppress the immune system, pointing to a potential evolutionary basis for man flu.

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