What? 'Man Flu' Might Be a Real Thing

Could the flu actually make men feel worse?
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Every woman has rolled her eyes and swallowed her tongue when dealing with a sick man. He's sooo sick, and sooo irritating. But now, gulp, a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology suggests man flu might be real. And it all has to do with the fact that men don't have estrogen, a seemingly super hormone!

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University wanted to see if influenza affects men and women differently, and how estrogen plays a role, so they first treated men's and women's nasal cells with estrogen, then intentionally infected the cells with the A strain of the virus.

Interestingly, they found females treated with estrogen, or selective estrogen receptor modulators, from 72 to 24 hours before infection demonstrated a far greater resistance to infection. But not men. In other words, women may have female-specific antiviral qualities, and are more able to fight off infection from the flu versus men, even when they are treated with estrogen.

Tia Mowry, actress and mother of 2-year-old Cree, chats with Parents about the importance of flu prevention for families. Even though the celeb mom doesn't like needles, Mowry shares her secret to keeping her son healthy and flu-free this season.

It's not clear exactly why men are less able to fight off infection, but researchers believe it may have something to do with estrogen's ability to reduce the cell's metabolic rate, slowing down the replication of the virus, and making its effects less severe.

So does this mean we women should be more sensitive to men's complaining when they're sick? Evidence seems to suggest men suffer more, just because they're male. And attempting to fight off infection via an estrogen therapy won't do anything. Sigh.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.

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