Published on 25 Jan 2013 Sections ,

Does man flu exist after all?

The man flu phenomenon has been the brunt of women’s scorn for years. But now one neuroscientist claims to have proof that men do have more to complain about when it comes to flu.

Does man flu exist after all? (G)

Coughs and splutters. Aches and pains. We’ve all been there. But for years, men have been accused of exaggerating their ailments, leading to dubious accusations of “man flu” from the fairer sex.

But a neuroscientist at Durham University claims that a man’s brain temperature may be the key to explaining why some men complain more about flu than women.

In her book, Getting Your Head Around the Brain, Dr Amanda Ellison says she takes a light-hearted view of how our brain affects our behaviour and the differences in men and women. She carried out a literature review on scientific data already published and came up with a few conclusions of her own.

“The area of the brain which regulates temperature is called the preoptic nucleus, and we know that this is bigger in men than in women. That’s nothing new,” she told Channel 4 News.

“When we are ill it can create an environment which is bad for bugs by raising our temperature so bugs can’t survive. There are more temperature receptors in this area of a man’s brain than in a woman’s brain, which is possibly why men feel rougher than women when they are ill and complain more.”

In children, boys and girls have the same sized preoptic nucleas. But when boys hit puberty, testosterone begins to have an affect on the area and it does start to get larger.

“Its size is proportional to the amount of testosterone in a man,” Dr Ellison added. “So how many receptors in that area will vary from man to man too.”

But while she has an inkling that temperature may be a factor, there is no hard scientific evidence. “So yes,” she adds, “the argument I’m sure will continue to rage on.”