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'Man flu' jibes could be prolonging illness

Disparaging expressions such as "man flu" may be encouraging men to soldier on when they are ill, but women are probably just as likely to keep working when they are suffering respiratory illnesses.

The dramatic collapse of GetUp! national director Simon Sheikh on ABC TV's Q&A program on Monday night has drawn national attention to the dangers of not following medical advice to rest, when suffering from influenza.

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GetUp! director collapses on Q&A

GetUp! director, Simon Sheikh fainted on live television during ABC's Q&A program.

Mr Sheikh, who was suffering from the flu, was taken to hospital after fainting during the program.

Influenza Specialist Group chairman Alan Hampson said dismissive terms as "man flu" which pressured people to keep working when they were ill risked prolonging the sufferers of illness and spreading disease.

But Dr Hampson said a survey conducted by his group earlier this years showed women were just as likely as men to keep working when they had respiratory illnesses.

"We found that about 90 per cent of people admitted to having gone to work when they had flu symptoms," he said.


"I don't think there was much difference between men and the man flu and the women and the woman flu. But anything that denigrates the importance of the infections is potentially a problem."

Dr Hampson said he hoped Mr Sheikh had not infected other people in the Q&A studio.

Influenza places severe pressure on public hospitals each year.

At the end of the last week, The Canberra Hospital had seven inpatients with confirmed Influenza A infections and one patient awaiting test results.

In June, the hospital had 129 presentations with respiratory-like illness.

Dr Hampson said influenza can be an extremely serious illness, particularly for people with underlying health conditions.

"People do underestimate the seriousness of influenza and they do underestimate the fact that it can lead to all sorts of other things. It can lead to heart attacks, it can lead to strokes in people who have a predilection for that to happen to them," he said.

"And if you don't look after yourself when you've got flu you can end up with these things happening and you can end up with bacterial pneumonia."

Dr Hampson said the best way to avoid the flu was to be vaccinated.

The remedies

Dr Alan Hampson says cold and flu tablets may make people feel better but do not reduce the duration of the illness

Inhaling steam: Can be useful in clearing congestion from a cold but will not hasten recovery from the flu

Other medications: If given within 24 hours of symptoms appearing, Tamiflu or Relenza could assist shorten the illness

Is it a flu or a cold?

"With a cold you may get a mild fever but you don't normally get a high fever," says Dr Alan Hampson.

"You don't get the muscular aches and pains and you don't normally get the headache although you can get a sinus headache as a consequence of a cold.

"You tend to get quite a hard cough with influenza."

A viral infection such as influenza could predispose respiratory tract bacteria to grow, causing a bacterial infection. This could also lead to pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs.