Is 'man flu' real?

The term 'man flu' is often used by women who swear that the men in their lives tend to suffer from an over-exaggeration of flu-like symptoms when they happen to become ill.

But, some recent research is suggesting that perhaps there is more to 'man flu' than superb acting skills.

Alan Taege, M.D., is an infectious disease expert at Cleveland Clinic. He did not take part in the study but said the findings align with what we already know about men and influenza.

"Men actually are at bigger risk for being put in a hospital when they get influenza; they're more likely to have complications from it, and they are even more likely to die from flu," Taege said.

Previous studies have shown that women tend to respond to the flu vaccine better than men. 

This most recent study suggests that women may have a better immune response to both the flu and rhinovirus as a result of their estrogen hormones.

Dr. Taege said while more research needs to be done to determine just how different the immune responses between men and women are, there are some things that all men should do to optimize their health.

"So, what can we do guys? Well let's be smart about this - stop smoking; get a vaccine for influenza - even though we don't respond as well, get all the help you can and slow down and rest when you do get sick," he said.  

Dr. Taege said while many are concerned that the current season's flu vaccine has not been as effective as experts hoped, it does still help lessen the effects of flu, and it's not too late to get vaccinated.

"It's never too late to get a vaccine," said Dr. Taege. "Understand though, that if you get it when the influenza is all around you, the vaccine doesn't work as soon as you get it. On average, you anticipate it will be about two weeks before you really have enough immunity to be protected."

Dr. Taege said when men do get the flu, there's no need to try and prove how "manly" they are. He advises staying home from work for two reasons –because the body needs the rest and because influenza is contagious.

He said perhaps women can cut the men in their lives a little bit of slack.

"Women, we aren't just wimping out, maybe we actually do feel worse," he said.


Recommended for you