The 'nasty' truth about man flu

You know the symptoms, you know how it feels: runny nose, stuffy head, funny compulsion to be horizontal on sofa and watch television while others scurry.

The wife may roll her eyes and mutter something about "man flu" but what would she know? She's not a man and her sort of flu is milder, quieter and shorter-lived. This is proper flu, and now the stats support it.

A recent survey purports that "man flu" is real. Admittedly the survey was conducted on behalf of a company selling pharmaceutical products, but it involved 1500 married or de facto Australians, aged between 25 and 64, and 66 per cent of them said it existed.

Is any more proof needed? Well, 49 per cent of the men surveyed said they had suffered from man flu in the past. And their man flu took, on average, 5.9 days of lying in bed, compared with the 4.9 days it took to fully recover from a bout of lady flu.

Please note that science does back it up. "It's entirely possible men's flu symptoms are worse then women's," said Professor Greg Tannock, of the Applied Science faculty of Melbourne's RMIT University. "Men have a higher response because they have more immune cells in their bodies. Often it's the immune response that does the damage, not the virus itself. It's the secondary response that can be nasty. And feel nasty."

Unlike men, women also have natural endorphins kick in to help them, say experts.

"The way nature has put us together has been done to keep the female of the species alive as a survival thing," said Professor John Upham of the University of Queensland. Last year his team of researchers found that gender was a factor in how the immune system reacts to rhinoviruses, the viruses that usually cause the common cold. They found that these differences disappear after women reach menopause - indicating they are probably regulated by sex hormones.

Man flu also appears to have a geographical bias. Men in Queensland are the most susceptible in Australia, the survey for GlaxoSmithKline found. Thirty-three per cent of women in the sunshine state said that men had a slower rate of recovery from flu than women, compared with a national average of 25 per cent. Men in New South Wales had the lowest rate of man flu, with only 19 per cent of female respondents citing slower recovery rates.

Five signs he's got Man flu


- Preference for sofa over bed, even at 11pm.

- Seeks company only to reject it.

- Emanates loud sniffing noises, which escalate into coughs when approached.

- Suffers variable hearing loss that requires volume of television to be steadily increased.

- Becomes expert on the medicinal qualities of whisky.