By Bea Mahmood
Brace yourselves. Winter’s coming. And while there are many aspects of the arctic-like season to fear, there’s one particular phenomenon that the world dreads. It’s not the thunderstorms which mercilessly pelt icy water at you while you try to go about everyday tasks, like walking five feet from the station to the office. It’s not even the daily ten minute battle with your car door that’s frozen shut. Even the frost-bite inducing winds which knock you back several metres if you dare try to go against them are bearable.
What I’m talking about is far more terrifying, far more debilitating and affects every member of the population, both directly and indirectly. What I’m talking about, is Man Flu.
Fictional or not, the affliction plagues the male population only (hence the name) but is also the source of infinite misery for wives, girlfriends and mothers everywhere. The severity of the illness which is, in truth, equitable to the common cold, is yet another cause for contention between the two sexes. While women struck with a cold or flu adopt the ‘power through and soldier on’ coping mechanism, it is indubitable that men… well, for men, it’s one step short of the end of the world.
Theoretically, colds and flus affect every human being in the same way, regardless of gender. However, a study conducted by the Express Newspaper shows that 52% of women said that men responded badly to the flu, choosing to wallow rather than be pro-active in getting better. Although rationality suggests that Man Flu does not exist and is just an exaggerated version of the common cold, there has been scientific research to suggest otherwise.
Research conducted earlier this year by neuroscientist Dr. Amanda Ellison of Durham University suggests that men are affected much more severely by a cold because of their neurobiological make-up. In youth, people react to colds the same way because the relevant area of the brain – the preoptic nucleus - is the same size in all children. However, when boys reach puberty, testosterone transforms the preoptic nucleus, enlarging it. But in women, it remains the same size.
The preoptic nucleus is responsible for increasing the temperature in the body, which destroys the infection. According to Dr. Ellis:
‘Men have more temperature receptors because that area of the brain is bigger in men than women.So men run a higher temperature and feel rougher – and if they complain they feel rough then maybe they’re right.’
So if there’s scientific evidence to suggest that men are biologically prone to running higher temperatures, however this does not make Man Flu’s existence conclusive. There are however, products available tailored specifically to sooth the illness – one such is creatively named Man-Flu. Man-Flu describe themselves as items 'that offer comfort, soothing and sympathy' and cleverly avoid being defined as ‘medicine.’ Therefore, we may assume the product is perhaps a marketing ploy, playing and cashing in on the phenomenon.
Dr. Ellison concedes that her research is not definitive. She explains: ‘My role is to put two and two together. There is no hard evidence that the feelings are worse in males than in females. This is a possible cause – but the argument will rage on.’
It is no doubt that the symptoms of Man Flu not only include chesty coughs and headaches, but also acute hyperbole and reversion to infancy. Entouraaj reader's housewife, Sana Mateen complains: ‘my husband always acts like a baby when he’s ill.’ So yes Dr. Ellison, it seems that the argument will most certainly rage on.
So I suppose men, the ability to bring the battle to an end lies in your hands. You can either face your illness like a runny-nosed Rambo ...or a sniffly Spencer Matthews. This winter, you decide.