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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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The Truth About 'Man Colds'

Is the 'man cold' myth or reality?

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?"

Her husband, Paul Burkett, a lawyer, admits that he acts cranky and complains a lot more when he has a cold. "My coping skills are diminished when my body is under attack," he says. "When Tracy gets sick, she lets me know, but she soldiers on much better than I do."

He's not sure why men might act this way, but suggests one reason. "Maybe we feel like we can actually get away with complaining because it's obvious you're sick," he says. "That gives you carte blanche to go ahead and let it all out."

Terry Bruce Burkett, a retired Navy veteran in Austin, Texas (and Paul's uncle), responded to Tracy's blog post: "I am one of those ‘men' that when I don't feel good, I generally let everyone around me know all about it. I don't consider myself a big baby or a habitual whiner. It's just a fact and I don't mind letting that out. No use going ‘round playing like everything is all peachy keen when it ain't!"

Why Do Men Act This Way?

In general, men are not used to talking about their inner states and expressing if they are feeling happy or hot, says Jean Berko Gleason, PhD, professor emerita of Psychology at Boston University.

"Men are less in touch with their feelings," she says, "so it might be more difficult for them to interpret what's going on when they are overwhelmed or sick."

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