Belfast Telegraph

Placebos to the rescue as man flu agony has me in its grip

By Mike Gilson

I've the man flu. But you won't find me going on about it. Come to think of it isn't the term man flu a bit, well, you know, sexist? If I told a female she'd only got a bit of girly flu there would be hell to play. But when a man is laid low, his pipes blocked, nose running, head pounding (I'm trying not to exaggerate here) it's a source of much mirth. Look at the fuss he's making over a sniffle, they titter.

It's the childbirth thing they've got us on. After pregnancy anything else in the world of pain and discomfort is a walk in the park. Mothers of all ages have a threshold, it seems, that allows them to laugh in the face of a chesty cough and a high temperature won't stop them painting a watercolour while getting the kids dinner before going off to a salsa class in the evening.

But as I sit here trying to concentrate on typing one word after another in the right order I'm beginning to wonder if colds (acknowledgement of the minor nature of the ailment is, I'm told, the first step to recovery) are actually getting worse.

I seem to have more of them and for longer. My current state hasn't been helped by having to fly back from London this week. The havoc played on my sinuses by the decompression of the landing made the cruise over Belfast Lough the longest 10 minutes of my life. Even now people are having to shout into my ear trumpet or use sign language to get through the static in my head. It feels and sounds like stand- ing in a field of electricity pylons.

And at times like this you are reacquainted with the trillion pound con that is the cold remedy industry. Decongestant tablets housed in a packet showing a beautiful woman gambolling in a field, arrows through her nose indicative of the free flow of fresh air into her lungs, are, of course, useless.

Pills to relieve aches, pains and lumbago serve only to make your eyes water when the chemist hands you back a few shekels change from your £20. On issues like this I always work by the "man on the moon" principle. If they can put a man on the moon more than 40 years ago how come they can't stop a sniffle?

Back when I was young a cold was a wondrous gift from the Gods. No school and your mum, hitherto too busy with her own life to worry about you scavenging around, was all over you with sympathy and soup.

Even now the mere sight of a big glass bottle of Lucozade (with the crinkly cellophane around the spout) makes me a feel a couple of degrees better. It was medicine in those days not an energy rehydration sports thingy that can shave a tenth of a second off your finish time.

Now though a cold is a drag. It's something to do with the fear that you need to use all your remaining days to the full (there's a prime example of man flu melodrama, one of the symptoms of the illness) while 13-year-old you had loads of days to waste.

So I'm not going to let self-pity sit on my shoulder, I'm going to keep downing the placebo remedies and get on with the day. As I said. Man flu.

You won't find me going on about it.

Mike Gilson is Editor of the Belfast Telegraph

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