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There's A Scientific Reason Men Are So Dramatic When They Have The Flu

When a man appears to be whining excessively over a little case of the sniffles, he is often said to be suffering from "man flu."

Men may tend to make a bigger deal out of getting sick because their immune systems are, in a sense, weaker than those of women.

According to Medical Daily, a study conducted at Johns Hopkins University found men are, indeed, less equipped than women to fight influenza due to a difference in cellular response to estrogen.

Researchers led by Sabra Klein, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins, exposed the nasal cells of men and women to the influenza A virus, estrogen, the environmental estrogen known as bisphenol A and selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERM), or estrogen-like compounds commonly used in hormone therapy.

The researchers determined estrogen, bisphenol A and a SERM compound called raloxifene reduced replication of the virus -- but only in female nasal cells; the more a virus replicates and spreads throughout the body, the more severe the illness becomes.

These findings, therefore, suggest men are more susceptible to the flu and are more likely to spread the virus than women, Huffington Post reports.

Klein said women who are on certain types of birth control or undergoing hormone replacement therapy post-menopause may be even safer from contracting the flu during its peak season.

In a press release, she said,

We see clinical potential in the finding that therapeutic estrogens that are used for treating infertility and menopause may also protect against the flu.

She added previous studies showed estrogen helps protect against hepatitis, Ebola and even HIV.

We may not see estrogen's effects on the general population, however, partially because estrogen levels are prone to fluctuation.

This study was originally published in the American Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology.

Citations: Battle Of The Sexes: Female Sex Hormone Weakens Flu Virus For Women, Not Men (Medical Daily), Does 'Man Flu' Exist? Men Might Suffer More Than Women As 'Oestrogen Helps Fight Flu Virus' (Huffington Post), Estrogenic compounds reduce influenza A virus replication in primary human nasal epithelial cells derived from female, but not male, donors (American Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology)