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The Man Cold: A Real Illness?

This time of year is notorious for the cough and sniffles that quickly spread from person to person. And it never fails—some sort of illness is always brought home. Since Chase and I both work in healthcare, the exposure to germs is unfortunately inevitable.

As a bit of a germaphobe myself, I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to being around potentially contagious people. There are always Lysol wipes and disinfecting products on stock in my home, and our frequently-touched surfaces get cleaned with Thieves spray every night.

However at least once a year, something makes its way in. It gets passed from one family member to the next, in an almost predicable timeline.

I've grown up with men in my life (as most of us have), and flu season somehow tends to always hit them a bit harder than the rest of us. Between the moaning and groaning and unbearable congestion, I can't help myself but feel really frustrated at their response to illnesses.

I get sick too. Moms catch viruses too. The world doesn't stop turning, just because we feel under the weather. Why do us women seem to just suck it up and move on with normal life?

And that's what's frustrating! The strong, tough, dependable men in my life suddenly turn into the biggest wimps, while I feel pressured to step up and keep going with my everyday life.

But I was wrong.

The Invasion of the Man Cold

My husband (and his partner—who I might add is ALSO a man) left work early one day last week, both complaining of a headache, sore throat, congestion, and productive cough. He came home and slept most of the day, while I took care of the baby. He was completely wiped out by his man-cold.

He asked me if he should go to Urgent Care. "No, it's just a cold."

He asked if he needed antibiotics or IV fluids. "No, it's just a cold."

He later asked me to check his blood pressure, worried about his pounding headache. "130/82. I promise you are not having a stroke. You are fine. It's JUST a cold!"

And that's basically how the next few days went. My frustration grew and my patience slimmed, because it's JUST a common cold.

But then one night, towards the end of his illness, he was up until 12 or 1am coughing. I felt bad for him, because it really does suck when you can't fall asleep due to of a persistent cough…but I was frustrated. (Yes, I was frustrated that he was sick, as ridiculous as that sounds).

So I Googled "remedies for the man cold" and here's what I found:

Yep, remedies for a sick toddler, a mild cold presenting itself as life-threatening, sick men are like children… sounds about right.

But then a website REALLY caught my eye.

Hold up… Men may not be exaggerating symptoms?

My first thought—yeah, this HAS to be written by a man. There's no way any woman would write something justifying a man's incapability of taking care of himself during a cold. *CLICK*.

But hold up, shut the front door! It's freakin' real.

My Google search continued, and to my surprise—the common cold really IS worse for men. Apparently, the sex hormones directly correlate to and impact the body's immune response.

Estrogen (in a woman's body) regulates and enhances the body's immune system by promoting the production of antibodies. This hyper-immunity makes women less susceptible to viral illnesses, as well as recovering from illness more quickly.

Testosterone (in a man's body) however, has an immunosuppressive effect, leading to a less effective protection from (and response to) invading illnesses. Therefore, their symptoms are more severe and take longer to recover from. (See Citation)

To say the least, I was shocked. I'm not saying men don't exaggerate their symptoms a tad bit, but they really do have a more severe response to illnesses.

I was taken back by my research. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with guilt for the years of my impatience and apathy.

So here I am—coughing and sniffling, still taking care of the baby, going on with my normal everyday responsibilities. This cold has not halted my life. I'm not miserable. I am a-okay.

But my mild symptoms don't discredit my husband's severe response, nor does it make me any tougher of a person.

I just have my estrogen to thank for that.


Until next time,



Don't believe me? Read it for yourself.

Taneja, V. (2018). Sex Hormones Determine Immune Response. Immunol. 9:1931. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.01931

Sue, K. The science behind “man flu”BMJ 2017; 359 :j5560 doi:10.1136/bmj.j5560

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