herald

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Sinead Ryan: Note to men everywhere - you do not have the flu

A man in bed with flu...or is it?
A man in bed with flu...or is it?

Well it's official. Influenza is a serious condition which strikes people down - but just twice a decade.

It's time for many to re-think their excuses. Yes, according to researchers at Imperial College London and contrary to the views of practically all men everywhere, the 'flu' is, in fact, a very rare disease.

Although children are more susceptible to it - picking it up every two years on average - by the time adults hit 30 it becomes a once-in-five-years event. It doesn't stop blokes behaving like kids when they get a common cold though.

A crippling disorder, marked by distressing bouts of whining, inexplicable inertia towards housework and an alarming rise in complaining, it's easy to confuse the two, but 'man-flu' is nothing of the sort, as - the female population already knew.

But how many of the rest of us are guilty of phoning into work citing 'the flu' as the reason we need to stay under the duvet, sipping hot whiskey and piling back the paracetamol? What are we confusing it with?

Well, cold symptoms can be very unsettling indeed. So can period pains, hangovers and any number of other wish-we-didn't-have-to-work ailments.

SERIOUS

But the recent results, taking blood samples from patients over a 41 year period, have shown that flu is a very specific identifiable infection, so serious that a free inoculation is given to the elderly and those with respiratory conditions every year.

They haven't yet invented a vaccine for the mutant male variety, although I'm fairly sure boffins are working on it.

'The flu', real or imagined, does lead to employers taking a hit though. The average sick leave in the private sector is six days a year - I'm sure many of these are marked down to 'flu'. The disease is evidently stronger in the public sector, where annual sick leave is 11 days.

There is no cure and when you're feeling rotten, clogged up with a thumping headache and streaming eyes, it's easy to think you're about to pop your clogs altogether.

But if you feel like this a couple of times a year, calling it 'flu' is likely to be absolutely wrong, although it may well garner you a bit more sympathy.

How many times is it used as a get out clause for shirkers who simply don't feel up to the day ahead?

We wouldn't tell someone we had the measles if we sprouted a few acne spots.

Perhaps it's time we started being more honest with ourselves.

- SINEAD RYAN

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