The flu is spreading across the country at a rate higher than any similar time in the past decade and doctors are reporting it as a “vicious strain.” According to The Centers for Disease Control1 (CDC) the proportion of outpatient visits for influenza during the second week of January were 6.3 percent compared to the national baseline of 2.2 percent. New York City, Puerto Rico and 32 states in particular experienced an incidence of flu rated just as “high” by the CDC. The Washington Post2 reports that some hospitals are setting up tents to triage the overflow of patients. The flu is to be taken seriously and can be life threatening.

Signs and symptoms of the flu
The symptoms of influenza are different from a cold. They come on suddenly and can vary in type and intensity from one person to another. The most objective source on the subject, the CDC3, defines the flu as a “contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses that can cause mild to severe illness and sometimes lead to death.”

Symptoms can include the following:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

Complications from the flu can include:

  • Sinus infections
  • Ear infections
  • Pneumonia

If you experience these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your ENT. If you are diagnosed with the flu it’s important to stay home, rest and avoid contact with others to avoid spreading the illness. Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can reduce fever and general aches and pains when taken according to physician instructions. A physician may prescribe antiviral drugs as well.

The man flu is real
The intensity and widespread incidence of the flu isn’t the only flu-related item in the news. One story that took the world media by storm was the news that the “man flu” is real.

That’s not a phrase we have coined to disparage men; it’s actually a term listed in the Oxford Dictionary4. The linguists define it as “a cold or similar minor ailment as experienced by a man who is regarded as exaggerating the severity of the symptoms.” In other words, man flu is a simple cold or allergy that allegedly causes the man to act like the world is coming to an end.

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal5 explored whether or not men experience illnesses in the same way as women or if they tend to be more dramatic about their pain and suffering. The author reviewed numerous studies on respiratory diseases, the common cold, the flu, viral infections and other conditions, and compiled the findings. He found that men do have a greater risk of being admitted to the hospital. They also die from the flu at higher rates than women. According to the clinical literature reviewed, the study said that men also suffer more complications and death from severe respiratory diseases.

It appears that hormones may be the culprit. The male hormone testosterone suppresses, or weakens, men’s immune systems. On the other hand, the female hormone estrogen may strengthen a woman’s immune system. It’s what the author of the study, Dr. Kyle Sue, calls an “immunity gap”.

The news was that the “man flu” is real was so big that seemingly every media outlet around the world covered the news, from The Guardian6 in the UK to Accuweather7 in the US.

As for the man flu, Dr. Sue says the best remedies are “lying on the couch, not getting out of bed” and using a “man cave”. He says that “male friendly spaces” may be the best treatment, especially those that have “enormous televisions and reclining chairs where men can recover from the debilitating effects of man flu in safety and comfort.”

He says he’s joking. Women may debate his sense of humor.