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Health Team

Is 'man flu' real? New research says maybe

Posted January 9, 2018 8:58 a.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 1:40 p.m. EDT

The term "man flu" might often be used by women who think the men in their lives tend to exaggerate their flu-like symptoms when they're sick, but new research shows it might be more than just an exaggeration.

Symptoms of the flu can be rough on anybody, but it sometimes seems like men have a tougher time with it. A recent study, though, shows women might respond better to the virus.

"We realized that men, actually are at bigger risk for being put in a hospital when they get influenza," said Dr. Alan Taege, a physician at the Cleveland Clinic. "They're more likely to have complications from it."

Taege said previous studies showed that women tend to respond to the flu vaccine better than men. A more recent study, though, suggests women may actually have a better immune response to both the flu and rhinovirus due to their estrogen hormones.

Doctors say more research is needed to determine just how different the immune responses are between men and women.

WRAL Health Team's Dr. Allen Mask said there are three things men can do to improve their health:

– Quit smoking

– Get the flu vaccine every season

– Take the time to rest if you feel sick

Some people are concerned that the current season's flu vaccine hasn't been as effective as officials hoped. But Mask said it still helps reduce the effects of the flu, and it's not too late to get vaccinated.

"It's never too late to get a vaccine," Taege said. "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."

Taege said if you do get the flu, there's no need to try and prove how "manly" you are. Stay home from work so your body can rest, and so you won't infect others.