flu, influenza, sick
The flu is rampant in New York state, officials say. Photo: iStock

You know the stereotype true and extremely common behavior in which cisgender dudes get the common cold and act like they’re dying? Apparently this whiny baby syndrome is called the “man flu.”  Recently, one of its victims  offenders took it upon himself to prove that this affliction actually has biological underpinnings and isn't just some male headcase BS, in a project for his middle school science fair.

 

JK, the researcher is an adult man named (Kyle) Sue, a Canadian doctor who was "tired of being accused of overreacting" to being sick, so he conducted a scientific review, which was published in the BMJ.

 

“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,” he writes, sounding like a Men's Rights activist. 

 

And then he aims to prove his point using mice. Which, sure, is a thing scientists do all the time — evidently harkening back all the way to “William Harvey in 17th century England,” Sue writes in his defense — but it’s still amusing in this context. 

 

Surveying all the published scientific literature he could find on the topic of which sex fares worse when they're sick, Sue found a few studies showing that female mice have a better immune response than their counterpart brodents, which has something to do with their having estrogen. 

Among the available human studies, Sue learned that between 1997 and 2007, more men in the U.S. died from flu-related illnesses than did women; that women respond better to the flu vaccine than men; and that high testosterone levels have been shown to correlate with weaker immune systems.

That all sounds sorta plausible, but then Sue ruins it by citing a survey in a “popular magazine” in which men reported taking three days to get over a viral respiratory illness, compared to 1.5 days for women. He quotes the study’s male authors, who allegedly urged readers to “go that extra mile to care for us when we are stricken with it, so that future shelves can be erected, cars can be maintained and football stadia throughout the land can be well attended.”

He goes on to discuss the male/female "immunity gap"— good one, Sue — but our interest waned. The only silver lining about this entire piece is that it was published in the BMJ’s Christmas issue, which is reserved for “lite-hearted fare and satire,” although it requires the use of legit studies. 

Hardy har har. Now, everybody go get a shot for the actual flu.