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Men are not so macho with simple ailments, unlike women

Health
 Men are not so macho with simple ailments, unlike women (Photo: iStock)

Simple and self-resolving ailments are pretty common. Most people can gauge when something transient comes along and have developed self-help coping strategies. But alas, men don’t appear to handle mundane and simple ailments as well as their female counterparts.

Think of flu symptoms as an example, women appear to handle such with ease, while men with similar symptoms struggle to keep up with ongoing chores. Observations are plenty of men appearing disproportionately unwell with common medical conditions compared to females.

Questions have been raised about whether this is an act, or whether there might be a biological explanation. The term ‘man flu’ was aptly coined to describe the phenomenon.

It equates to men appearing much sicker than would be expected with a mild illness. Some may think men are really the weaker sex, and can’t hold themselves together even when faced with a simple ailment. It is also generally apparent that men will tend to ignore symptoms, and only seek help when they get overwhelmed.

They also predispose themselves to riskier health behaviour, further putting themselves at risk of acquiring a host of medical conditions. All this may add up to men suffering severe disease symptoms and appearing sicker.

The ‘man flu’ phenomenon has led scientists to search for plausible biological explanations. There are debates about immune mechanisms. Some studies suggest that male and female immune cells may react differently to invading organisms. The male sex may get a more serious and indolent course of disease simply due to a somewhat moderated immune response.

Men thus end up exhibiting a higher level of symptoms, generally look more unwell, and take longer to recover. It remains unclear if the male hormone testosterone plays a definitive role.

Ordinarily, testosterone drives the male macho image, but it may also be responsible for the ‘man flu’. The question is whether we should sympathise more with sick men, or berate them for not displaying a more balanced overall status of stability. Different biological systems may not sorely explain the ‘man flu’ phenomenon.

Each man is responsible for their prevailing health, and acting promptly and appropriately when afflicted with some ailment. They shouldn’t overly exaggerate symptoms, but equally, they shouldn’t hide away debilitating symptoms for the sake of upholding their macho status.

In an actual sense, men can borrow so much from their women counterparts who are more health-conscious and will flawlessly ride many symptoms almost unnoticed.         

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist.

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