Man Flu: A Man's Illness?

"I think that one of the things that our society has developed is a form of humor that mocks the people that have the power," said Aserinsky. "I think we still live in a society where the sex roles are still divided and man-flu is a tactic to mock the idea of the head of household."

Dr. Donna Hoban, senior vice president and director of medical services and a family medicine specialist at William Beaumont Hospitals, said man-flu is less about the physical mechanisms and scientific data and more about society's view on gender roles.

"Men have to be strong and tough, that's what our society would say," said Hoban. "And all of a sudden when they're sick, it allows them a short opportunity to be vulnerable."

It's Just a Cold, Honey

Leanne recalled times when both she and her husband, who have been married for six years, had come down with a cold. He stayed in bed, she said, while she took care of their two children. However, Leanne said, her husband refused to take medication or see a doctor when she agreed that his case may be more serious than hers.

"I think my husband doesn't get sick very often," she said. "But when he does get the one or two big colds, he milks it for all it's worth."

According to Aserinsky, even men who are normally tough do not feel threatened by making their cold symptoms known.

"The cold can make you miserable without being threatening, so a man can give into that," Aserinsky said.

Many men may deny larger health concerns out of fear that they may find something more serious, Aserinsky said. So some men view a cold as a safer form of illness.

"It's a very funny form of cowardice, and it's paradoxical to make a big thing out of a head cold," he said. "You can wallow in that misery without any serious risk."

And the man-flu is not only a term used between spouses. Leanne said her father and brother also claim to feel so over the top that her mother waits on them hand and foot.

"They just lie in the bed with their arms outstretched like death might greet them at any moment," she said.

A Upside to Man-Flu?

While there is no evidence suggesting whether or why men suffer worse physical symptoms than women when hit by the cold, Hoban said one of the many benefits of man-flu is that men take the time to rest and fully recover from their ailment while many women may not. Perhaps more women should take note, she said.

"I think it's instinctual for women to be nurturing and caregivers," said Hoban. "I think most women do it willingly, then go downstairs and joke about it."

Raison agreed that while cold symptoms may feel uncomfortable for both men and women, a man may take the advantage of a woman's willingness to care for him while he is sick.

"Maybe women shouldn't be so surprised that men are so vulnerable," said Raison.

But for Leanne, who says she will inevitably endure many more cases of man-flu, she can't help but wish she could tell her husband, "Buck up, buttercup."

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Cold & Flu season is here! Visit the ABCNews.com OnCall+ Cold & Flu Center to get all your questions answered about these nasty viruses.

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