True or false? Men suffer more and have worse flu symptoms than women.
“Men do generally seem more miserable but that’s my totally unscientific observation,” says CHI Health Nurse Practitioner Lauren Schreffler.
Is it possible that tongue-in-cheek malady known as “man flu” is an actual illness?
“Gender roles can definitely impact how men and women cope with the flu,” says Schreffler. “Responsibility for caregiving for both children and ill family members within the home often falls to women.” Women may put off a visit to the doctor while, if a man’s primary role is breadwinner, he can take off work and rest without having the responsibilities of caregiving for others. “This is where I think the majority of the stereotype of the ‘man flu’ comes from: women have to soldier on while men can rest up.”
Women are also more likely to get the flu shot. “Not only does it decrease the likelihood they will get the flu covered in the vaccine,” Schreffler says, “It also has the potential to decrease symptoms of a flu strain not covered in the vaccine.”
And women’s bodies may fight back harder. “A study published in 2008 actually found women have the same antibody response to a half dose of the flu vaccine as men do when they receive the full dose!” she says.
In other words, if a vaccinated woman comes into contact with the flu, “her body is more likely to be successful in recognizing it and fighting it off than a vaccinated man would.”
No matter what your sex, she strongly recommends a flu shot. Vaccinations during the 2015-2016 flu season prevented an estimated 5.1 million illnesses, 2.5 million medical visits, 71,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 pneumonia- and influenza-related deaths.
“The flu is absolutely miserable no matter who you are,” Schreffler says. “Together we can prevent the man flu. Get your flu shot!”