Women forced to play nursemaid to partners with ‘man flu’ may find their sympathy quickly running low.
But the man lying on the sofa protesting he is too weak to put out the bins may not be the big baby he appears.
A scientific review now suggests hotly debated ‘man flu’ may really exist, as men have weaker immune responses to respiratory viruses.
Women are the real wimps, based on evidence that they are most likely to scale back their everyday activities when suffering just one symptom of minor illness.
A scientific review now suggests hotly debated ‘man flu’ may really exist, as men have weaker immune responses to respiratory viruses
Men, on the other hand, are believed to have their ailments under-rated by doctors, while studies show testosterone may make them less able to fight off the flu.
The evidence is presented in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), in a report by Dr Kyle Sue, a clinical assistant professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada.
However the Royal College of GPs has fought back, maintaining that man flu does not exist.
Dr Sue writes: ‘Men may not be exaggerating symptoms but have weaker immune responses to viral respiratory viruses, leading to greater morbidity and mortality than seen in women.’
He adds: ‘Since about half of the world’s population is male, deeming male viral respiratory symptoms as “exaggerated” without rigorous scientific evidence, could have important implications for men, including insufficient provision of care.’
The Oxford dictionary defines man flu as ‘a cold or similar minor ailment as experienced by a man who is regarded as exaggerating the severity of the symptoms’. No scientific review has previously been done to investigate whether it exists.
In support of man flu, Dr Sue found some evidence that adult men have a higher risk of flu-related hospital admissions than women. A US study of flu-related deaths over the decade to 2007 found men had a higher death rate than women regardless of other diseases.
Pre-menopausal women, it appears, are better at fighting off the common cold, based on a comparison of male and female cells.
The review suggests that testosterone might suppress men’s immune system, making it harder to battle the flu, while a female sex hormone boosts women’s immune response.
However Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘We’re sorry to be the bearer of disappointing news for half the population – but contrary to popular belief, and this article, the vast majority of robust scientific evidence suggests that flu is not sexist and there is no such thing as “man flu”.
‘While there are people who believe that “man flu” is an actual disease, and some men (and women) genuinely believe it is the reason they are unwell, there is little science to back this up.’
However she added: ‘There has been some research to suggest respiratory tract infections, as they are known, can present more severely in men than women and the best advice for anyone affected is to rest at home, drink plenty of fluids and to take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol, if necessary.’
Dr Sue has disagreed, stating that men might get sicker from flu as an important strategy for survival from caveman times, which kept them safe from predators and conserved their energy.
Dr Sue added: ‘Lying on the couch, not getting out of bed, or receiving assistance with activities of daily living could also be evolutionary behaviours that protect against predators.
‘Perhaps now is the time for male-friendly spaces, equipped with enormous televisions and reclining chairs, to be set up where men can recover from the debilitating effects of man flu in safety and comfort.’