Man flu: The survival guide!

A longtime subject of ridicule, it turns out that the once mythical man flu may in fact be real! A study by the Memorial University of Newfoundland found that men have a higher risk of hospital admission from influenza, along with a larger rate of associated deaths.

Dr Kyle Sue, who ran the study, noted that some of the evidence suggests men may suffer from more viral respiratory illnesses than women, due to a less robust immune system:

Men may not be exaggerating symptoms, but have weaker immune responses to viral respiratory viruses”

Use that quote the next time someone makes fun of your man flu! Know we know it’s serious, here are some tips to help you prevent and ward off that vicious virus:

Prevention

Stay active

As the evenings grow darker and colder, it can be tempting to skip the gym or bail on an evening walk, in favour of curling up on the sofa with a hot chocolate. But, science shows that regular exercise can boost your immune system. It doesn’t have to be intense either – one study in The American Journal of Medicine found that people who walked for 45 minutes, 5 days a week, had higher numbers of white blood cells, which are crucial for fighting off infections – like man flu!

Get your vitamins

It may seem obvious, but having a balanced diet is vital in the fight against man flu, as you need all of your vitamins and minerals to keep your immune system in tip top shape. For example, your body cannot produce or store vitamin C, which prevents deficiencies in the immune system, so you need to get your daily fill.

Other vitamins, like vitamin B6 and Vitamin E help the biochemical reactions in the immune system, and act as antioxidants to help fight infection. To make sure you’re getting everything you need, use the Eatwell Plate as a guide, to ensure your diet is well balanced. You can also top up your vitamin intake with a quality multivitamin tablet.  

Sleep!

Recent research into the science of sleep indicates that our nightly rest plays a big role in our immune response. According to the German researchers, sleep is the best time for T cells, an important white blood cell, to attach to pathogens and viruses in the body.

Clearly, sleep is a huge weapon in the fight against man flu – the NHS recommends adults get between 6-9 hours each night. If you find yourself struggling, apps like Pzizz can help you to sleep faster, and for longer. 

Cures

Spice it up

If you find yourself succumbing to the might of man flu, it might be worth adding some heat to your food. Spicy foods, like jalapeño and cayenne peppers contain a compound known as capsaicin, which is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. This can help to relieve congested sinuses, so it won’t hurt to opt for a chilli con carne if you’re a little bunged up.

Capsaicin is also often used as an ingredient in over the counter pain relief, and is even thought to have antibacterial properties – a handy ally when you’re under the weather!

Take a day off

As tempting as it is to try and power through a stint of flu, it’s likely to do more harm than good. Not only are you depriving your body of the rest and sleep it needs to fight the infection, but you’re likely to put your colleagues at risk too.

A study performed by the University of Arizona found that infectious germs can cover 50% of an office in just four hours!

Buteyko breathing

One of the most frustrating things about the flu is that infuriating feeling of a blocked nose. Although there’s no quick fix for this, there is a breathing technique that can provide some temporary relief.

Developed in the 1950s by Ukranian doctor Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko, it’s original intention was to help treat asthma, which has not been widely supported in the medical community.

However, the method does seem to help clear the sinuses for a brief period, although you may get some funny looks if you do it in public! Give it a try the next time you need a nasal release:

  • Gently breathe in, then out
  • Hold your nose (and your breath)
  • Slowly nod your head up and down 
  • When you can’t hold your breath anymore, let go and breathe through your nose without opening your mouth
  • Repeat after 30 seconds
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