When Gina Gallo, a school librarian in Lacombe, La., gets sick, she can take
care of herself. She gets her own medicine, makes her own food, and "deals with
it," as she puts it. But when her fiancé gets a cold, she says he has "a
complete system breakdown."
"The world stops and the whining is incessant," she says. "I am expected to
bring him food, take care of him, and generally treat him like the baby that he
You rise from a fitful night’s sleep with a sore throat and headache. Your
temperature is slightly over 100 degrees, but judging by how crummy you feel,
you wonder if it will spike to 103 degrees by day’s end. Should you drag
yourself to work and risk infecting coworkers? Or should you phone in sick,
even though your boss desperately needs you to pitch in during a stressful
“People are concerned about calling in sick, but if you’re really feeling
unwell and especially if you have a fever,...
Gallo's fiancé declined to talk with WebMD for this story. Their Mars-Venus
situation may strike a nerve with anyone who's dealt with similar antics at
home or watched the popular "Man Cold" video on
With more than 4 million views to date, the humorous clip shows a groaning,
couch-laden man who phones the paramedics for an emergency — his cold. They
promptly administer assistance and scold his wife, who is also sick, for not
understanding the gravity of the situation: "For God's sake, woman. He's a man.
He has a man cold."
Coined in the U.K., "man cold" or "man flu" is a tongue-in-cheek expression
to describe a man's way of dealing with the common cold. For instance, men who
are sick may hole up under the covers sniffling for sympathy and insisting that
it's "more than a cold," while women who are sick will carry on with their
Although this sardonic portrayal of the "man cold" is played for laughs, is
there any truth to this characterization of the sexes? In other words, do men
and women respond to colds differently?
'Man Cold' Debunked
There's nothing in the medical literature to back up any difference in men's
and women's colds, says William Schaffner, MD, infectious disease specialist
and chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of
But men are less likely than women to seek medical advice when they are
Researchers at England's University of Glasgow studied nearly 1,700 people
and found that men were more likely than women to overrate their common cold
symptoms. The researchers theorized that men and women have different
thresholds for perceiving and reporting symptoms, rather than actual
differences in symptoms.
That is, their cold symptoms were the same. But men and women responded
differently to those symptoms.
He Says, She Says
After a long, exhausting day of work and taking care of the kids, Tracy
Hahn-Burkett, a writer in Bow, N.H., was already fed up by the time her husband
informed her he had caught the family bug.
When she asked him why he snapped at their daughter, he responded with a
growl: "I don't feel good, alright? I'm sick, alright?"
On her blog "Uncharted Parent," Hahn-Burkett writes: "Why is it that for a
man, the onset of a head cold is just one degree short of ‘The End of The
World?' To my beloved husband and the rest of you wonderful gentlemen out there
— and you know who you are — it's a cold. It sucks, but you'll live. Why is
this so traumatic?"