Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Man Flu ... Is Illness a Myth or Cold Reality? ; HEALTH

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Man Flu ... Is Illness a Myth or Cold Reality? ; HEALTH

Article excerpt

BEDRIDDEN, pale, weak and unable to speak unless asking for something, the man is clearly suffering from a serious condition.

He's got man flu. An illness that can apparently fell even the most virile, it's also capable of causing serious irritation to female partners and is the source of many sexist jokes.

Is this debilitating condition real, or are men who get the same respiratory illnesses as women simply less able to deal with them? Some studies have suggested differences in men and women's immune systems that might help explain differences in the way they cope with minor illnesses. Research from Ghent University, Belgium, last year found women have a builtin advantage to their immune system linked to them having two X-chromosomes rather than the one that men have.

And a 2009 study from Canada's McGill University showed that the female sex hormone oestrogen boosts women's immune systems.

Professor Ron Eccles, director of Cardiff University's Common Cold Centre, suggests some of the difference in the way men and women react to colds and flu may indeed be related to differences in their immune systems.

Those differences may occur, he says, because when women get pregnant their immune system has to tolerate the 'foreign body' of a growing baby.

"It may be that women are more tolerant of foreign bodies and don't respond as strongly to infection as men, but there's very little scientific data on that, it's just an idea," says Eccles.

He does, however, point out that over their reproductive years, women get significantly more colds than men because of exposure to children, who spread infection.

This raises the possibility that women cope with colds better because they're simply more used to having them.

While many women will insist that man flu is nothing more than a bad cold, clinical psychologist Roger Kingerlee, who researches men's psychological health, suggests that rather than immediately dismissing a man's malaise, female partners should think about checking if there's a deeper problem. …

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