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  • Charlene Mahon

Monday Musings….The Man Flu, Fact or Fantasy?



The day started off as normal, but by noon my eyes started burning, my throat got scratchy, and my head started pounding. Within the hour, I felt a fever coming on, followed by the chills. I couldn’t believe it. I had…the man flu.

Now, I know what you are thinking. I have no right to this gender specific ailment, being a woman after all, but I’ve done my research, and I honestly think that’s what I had this week. And just like the men who suffer from it, I’m not exaggerating. In December 2017, the British Medical Journal published an article by Canadian Dr. Kyle Sue entitled: “The science behind “man flu” “(BMJ 2017;359:j5560). You see, the man flu legitimately exists. It takes the experience of cold and flu symptoms to a whole new level. The symptoms feel way worse, they last longer, hospitalization may be necessary, and even death is a possibility!! And that is exactly how I felt.

To throw my support behind Dr. Sue's research, I decided to volunteer and replicate his findings in my own personal lab, i.e. my experience this week. Would his findings stand up as fact, or were they mere fantasy?

Fact #1: The scientific evidence for the man flu comes largely from studies of mice. Those studies found that male mice appear to have a weaker immune system. When exposed to the same germ pool, male mice were found to get sicker quicker, while many of their female counterparts didn’t get sick at all! But, as they noted, more rigorous examinations of immunity, especially involving humans, are needed to confirm a definitive difference in diagnosis. My proof: I don’t normally get sick. I have a case of Purell hand sanitizer in my possession. (That’s the truth!) I have no clue where I picked this bug up, and yet I still got sick. So, with this current research in mind, I think I can safely say my immune system must be as weak as a man’s, or at least on the same level as a male mouse.

Fact #2: The study also included observations of human behaviour regarding the onset of the symptoms. They found that men in fact do NOT become cowards with the first sneeze, rather it is women who cut down their activity level when they first notice the onset of a cold. But note, this is not a sign of wimpery for women, no, it is an example of their bravery! Kudos to women for attacking those symptoms early on, taking necessary precautions to not infect anyone else, and nipping those nasal nasties in the bud! Men, on the other hand, tend to put off those plausibly preventative measures, preferring to unwittingly percolate the pesky pneumonic particles. My proof: When I felt the above stated symptoms cover me like a funeral shroud, I kept working. I wasn’t in denial. I knew I was sick. But my mind told me I had to keep going and I did, even into the next day. Because of this, however, my symptoms got worse. I had man flu written all over me.

Fact #3: The study found evidence that in relation to the combined effects of Fact #1 and Fact #2, it takes a man twice as long to recover from the same viral illness as a woman. My proof: I generally bounce back from ailments pretty quickly. This time, despite the comfy blankets, the meals being made for me, and the heavy doses of Netflix, it hung on and on. Arghh! This man flu is the worst!

So, I have a newfound respect for men who are sick. Due to my own recent experience and analysis of said symptoms for the purpose of scientific comparison, I understand now why so many men feel their symptoms have been de-legitimized for so long. I concur with Dr. Sue's findings that the man flu is definitely not a whimsical fantasy concocted to acquire additional attention and care. Never!

Oh, honey? Can you make me a NeoCitran? I'm still coughing up some nasty stuff!

This week's song is none other than "Unwell" by Matchbox Twenty. Rob Thomas' focus in this piece is mental health, but we all know how physical and mental health go hand in hand :)

#manflu #DrKyleSue

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