There ain't no flu like man flu

By Charlotte Jobson

Last Sunday my dad took to his bed, more ill than he had "ever felt before". His head was pounding, his throat was burning and he had quickly come to the conclusion that he was "incapable of doing anything but sleeping".

I recognised the signs immediately. My father was yet another victim of the epidemic sweeping the nation - it was a severe case of man flu.

The symptoms are visible only to the trained eye - generally that of the victim himself, making self-diagnosis the only way the numbers affected by the illness can be determined.

The invalid himself will tell you his illness is "far more than just a cold", and he is right. Man flu (unlike the common cold women are susceptible to) can last for weeks. This period generally breaks down into three main stages: stage 1 - "feeling a bit under the weather"; stage 2 - "if I get any worse I might have to go to A&E"; and stage 3 - "still trying to shake this flu - it's the worst I've ever felt".

One of the main difficulties in diagnosing man flu is that during stage 1 the symptoms can be very similar to those of CPS (couch potato syndrome). Sufferers spend long periods of time watching re-runs of Neighbours and Coronation Street.

It is at stage 2 of man flu that the diagnosis becomes most apparent. The invalid becomes more verbal, complaining of being "sore all over", and is quite sure that he "must be dying".

He is also likely to be lethargic, requiring assistance with menial tasks such as reaching the remote or making a cup of tea. Comfort foods will provide momentary relief, but only if prepared with tender, loving care by a wife or daughter.

Stage 3 is a readjustment period. After living with such a debilitating illness for so long, the sufferer is unsure how to fit back into his daily routine. He must also be extremely cautious about "overdoing it" for fear of the dreaded man flu's return. Understanding, sympathy and slave-like support are required from his nursing staff at this stage.

Bouts of man flu seem to be brought on by changes to the sufferer's environment. Common triggers include mounting housework or an impending visit from the in-laws. The virus also appears to be seasonal, rarely taking hold before an All Blacks test match, nor does it affect participation in a boys' weekend away.

It is important to raise awareness about man flu. There is no cure. The virus must be left to run its course. It is particularly destructive in developed countries, often in more affluent areas. It is spread as easily as the common cold.

For my dad, we all know there is a long road to recovery. We remind ourselves daily that the cold my mum had last week (and was over in two days) can give us only the smallest glimpse into the world of misery Dad is experiencing. We can only do our best - nodding sympathetically, fetching the remote, cooking up comfort food and all the while agreeing, "you're right, you've never been this bad before!"

Charlotte Jobson, Year 13, Westlake Girls High School

- NZ Herald

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