SICK DAYS: On average men take less time off work than women.
SICK DAYS: On average men take less time off work than women. Contributed

"Man flu" not to be sneezed at

PUT down that box of tissues and put your work pants back on, fellas.

Australian scientists have discovered new evidence that suggests "man flu" may just be a myth.

The syndrome is where men take to their beds at the first sign of a winter sniffle and complain loudly to garner sympathy.

But after an analysis of more than 16,000 influenza cases in Australia last year, it's found the term "man flu" may be an unfair label.

Public health physicians from Hunter New England Health and the University of Newcastle collected the data from their national flu-monitoring program flutracking.net.

They found little difference in the average duration of illness between men and women.

Women with the flu had an average of three days off, while men took only about 2.8 days off work with coughs and fever.

Among those ill enough to visit an emergency department, women took an average of four days off, whereas men took 3.5.

Flinders View 21-year-old Crystal Goodacre said her spouse Elliot rarely took a sick day.

"Sometimes, he'll even go into work so ill that his manager will request that he goes home," she said

"But I'm the same as well - it was just how I was raised. It was a bit of a hassle for my parents if I wanted to take a sick day from school.

"So if I did, I was confined to my bed all day and not allowed to watch television or anything except rest and get better."

Mrs Goodacre said women might get ill more often, though, because they were normally the ones who provided care to sick family members.

Another possible implication of the findings was that men were not so sick when they visited the emergency department and so needed less time off.

In 2011, University of Queensland researchers found young women had a better immune response to rhinoviruses - the viruses that usually caused the common cold.

Lead researcher and professor of Respiratory Medicine at UQ John Upham said female sex hormones were responsible for young women being able to fight cold viruses better than their male counterparts.

But when women reached the age of menopause, their improved resistance to rhinoviruses faded.

Prof Upham said the study did not necessarily mean women were more immune to the flu than men.

"I think the 'man flu' is a mix of biology and people's behavioural patterns for when they get ill," he said.



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