Why Men Are Babies When They’re Sick

OK, I admit it. When I get sick, which isn’t very often, I act like a big baby. I want to be taken care of. Why is that? See what Holly Corbett from REDBOOK has to say about it.

Does it annoy you that a measly cold is enough to turn your guy into a whining, moaning child while you’re expected to carry on with your daily routine despite having the sniffles? Well, we hate to say it, but maybe it isn’t just an excuse: half of guys describe a common cold as “the flu,” and upgrade headaches to migraine status, according to The Engage Mutual survey. Moreover, women report that 57 percent of men seek attention and sympathy when sick, and that two-thirds of men whine and complain. Before you exclaim that real pain is birthing an eight-pound baby, check out these mental and physical factors that may make men more likely to exaggerate their illnesses.

Women may be better able to battle germs
There may be actual science behind the stereotype that a man makes a cold sound life-threatening, while a woman simply rolls with the aches. Women are better able to fight off complications from injury and infection, according to a study in BioEssays. Researchers believe it has something to do with MicroRNAs, which are linked to immune function and produced by the X chromosome, of which women have two. Since men have only one X chromosome, and the Y chromosome may not share the same immunity-boosting MicroRNAs, females may be the tougher sex after all.

Men want their mommies
Not to get all Freudian on you, but your gender could trigger his deep-rooted childhood desires to have his mom take care of him when he’s under the weather. “Most of my female patients complain that their husbands drive them nuts by wanting their wives to take on the role of mom,” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale School of Medicine. We’re not suggesting you go out and buy him footie pajamas, but cooking up homemade chicken soup like his mom used to make could score you major brownie points.

Women may have built up more immunity
If you’re the primary caregiver to the children, you’ve probably naturally developed more immunity from colds and flu thanks to the little buggers. “Daycare centers are germ cesspools,” says Dr. Minkin. “So if you’re responsible for dropping off and picking up the kids from school or daycare, your husband may not have been as exposed to those germs to have developed an immunity, and therefore may be harder hit when he does get sick.”

Guys go to the doctor less
Guys may actually need you to be their personal nurse, since studies show that men between the ages of 20 and 40 are much less likely than women to a visit a doctor, and that women have more contact with the healthcare system in general. “Guys are afraid of the doctor, and when they do get sick they dramatize it,” says Dr. Minkin. “Plus, women visit their gynecologists once or twice a year, where they’ll be encouraged to get a flu shot if they’re trying to get pregnant or have young kids. There’s no male equivalent to gynecologist so less men get the protection of a flu shot.”

The jury’s still out on this oft-cited reason

You might be thinking the obvious – that the ability to bear children is what has turned us into Superwomen. But there’s little out there studying the pain-pregnancy link and what is out there is pretty mixed. Some research finds that when it comes to pain sensors in our brain, women and men are more alike then different. But other MDs still feel there’s reason to speculate. One small study discovered that women deal with extreme pain better than men, says Dr. Minkin. She surmises this may be because even though the sexes feel pain the same way, men devote their energy to fearing the experience whereas women direct theirs toward finding ways to cope.