Colds and flu

Updated 26 January 2016

'Man flu' common among SA men

A tweet-a-thon revealed that “man flu” is alive and unwell among South African men.

A massive tweet-a-thon staged by leading colds and flu medicine provider, Pharma Dynamics, revealed that among other unusual colds and flu discoveries, “man flu” is alive and unwell among South African men.

More than 72% of tweets confirmed that man flu does exist.

Most female participants simply put man flu down to a need for more attention when men are sick accompanied by a burning need to lie on the couch and watch copious amounts of television, but the latest research indicates some truth to the condition.

Mariska Fouche, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics, says that when struck by the flu, men really do suffer more, despite being accused of exaggerating symptoms to gain sympathy.

“When you have the flu your temperature rises to fight off the bugs. The difference however between men and women is in the region of the brain which controls temperature. The area is the same size in childhood but when boys hit puberty testosterone starts to act on the area, known as the preoptic nucleaus, making it larger. As a result men could experience general colds and flu symptoms more intensely than women because they have more temperature receptors in that area of the brain”, explains Fouche.

Fascinating flu remedies

The tweet-a-thon, which was held in May to mark the start of the dreaded colds and flu season, also unearthed some of SA’s most fascinating flu remedies.

Some included old wives’ tales such as chopping up an onion and placing it next to you in bed – apparently it absorbs flu germs. Another tweet swore by a mixture of ginger beer and Disprins, while another suggested taking a hot mustard bath with feet covered in a menthol rub along with a hot toddy, of course.

Eating copious numbers of Marmite sandwiches also seemed to be a sure-fire-flu-buster since it contains vitamin B3, also known as niacin, which in large doses increases the body’s ability to fight off infections.

Motion-picture penicillin was also tweeted as a way to help ease flu symptoms with the top five must-see flu-movies topping the tweet-a-thon chart, being:

1. Pretty Woman
2. Die Hard
3. Shrek
4. The Lord of the Rings trilogy
5.  Friends with Benefits

“A comfort movie can not only help you get better faster but it’s good preventative medicine,” says Fouche.

She suggests a plot that isn’t too complicated in case you doze off and, while it doesn’t have to be a comedy, it does have to be upbeat and cheerful because laughter can decrease blood pressure and boost your immune system.

Pharma Dynamics’ tweet-a-thon also revealed another uncomfortable truth about our nation’s sneezing habits.

“Despite the colds and flu season being in full swing, most participants admitted to sneezing into their hands more often than tissues and some don’t bother to cover up at all. Coughing or sneezing directly into a hand that subsequently touches food, money or other people is clearly a recipe for contagion. A typical sneeze can travel 160 kph and spew countless germs into the air or onto one’s hand.

“It’s far more hygienic if you sneeze into your elbow (covering your mouth and nose) when there isn’t time to grab a tissue, but if you’re having trouble breaking the habit then be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards and/or use a waterless hand-sanitizer,” says Fouche.

(Picture: man sneezing from Shutterstock)

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Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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