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It’s an age-old stereotype that men are more likely to be bigger babies than women when they’re sick. But the fact that they’re actually more likely to get sick – at least when it comes to the flu – comes as news to us.

But that’s exactly what a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology indicates: that men are more likely to get and suffer from the flu than women. And here people used to call females the weaker sex. AS if.

In order to conduct the study, researchers at John Hopkins University looked into estrogen’s ability to quash the flu virus within the immune system, and found that in nasal cells – the cells that are typically affected by flu infection – the virus spread less when there’s estrogen present. In order to get sick with the flu, the virus needs to spread and take over. So, if estrogen is stopping that from happening, it leads researchers to believe that men are more likely to get sick than women.

So what do women have that men don’t?

Again, it all breaks down to estrogen, the steroid hormones that work to develop and maintain female characteristics in the body such as a higher voice, breasts and of course, the reproductive cycle.

Do men have estrogen?

They sure do. As teenagers, when things are forming and awkward things are happening to the body, guys have more testosterone than estrogen. But as they age, the amount of estrogen in their bodies actually grows. That doesn’t mean they have nearly as much as women – even women with low levels still have much more than men.

Should men take more estrogen to protect themselves?

Probably not. In fact, it’s actually inadvisable to take any sort of hormones without consulting a doctor – let alone one that can seriously mess with your reproductive system and more. Plus, this is a very early study and so more research needs to be done before anything absolutely conclusive can be found.

Does this mean women are less likely to get all types of flu?

Absolutely not. This particular study looked at the effects of estrogen on human influenza A, which is one type of flu virus that can morph into a particular subset of viruses depending on the proteins found on the surface. All together there are 29 subtypes out there that scientists have found to date.

Then there is human influenza B, which doesn’t have subtypes, but can still be broken down into different strains and lineages. Last but not least is influenza type C, which causes respiratory illness.

So can women skip the flu shot?

Oh, the flu shot. The little needle prick causing such a big debate in Canada. If you’re a proponent of getting them in the first place, or if you and your doctor have decided it’s a good venue for your health, then this study should definitely not sway your decision. Whether you’re a male or female.

Does this mean women are actually superhuman?

Jury’s still out on that one, but we do know some pretty kickass women out there. But to be fair, we know some pretty awesome dudes, too. And all of them have been known to get sick now and then.

 

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