How is the Flu Like a Hot Tub?

Did you the flu get you this winter? Its peak season right about now. If you’ve had it, you’ll agree that it’s quite a ripper. Starts as a sore throat for a couple of days. Then, just when you think you licked it, you lose your voice. After you’re talking again, a deep, harsh cough sets in. Two or three weeks into all this, you start feeling better. Ridiculous. Even with the flu shot.

The Mismatched H3N2 Flu Virus

If you managed to get the flu this season…well, join the bunch. The flu shot was only 18% effective this year. Not only that, 86 U.S. children have died and more than 13,000 people have been hospitalized so far. Definitely one of the worst flu seasons on record.

Putting Fertility on Hold

Mind the mercury if you have the flu! (courtesy:
Mind the mercury if you have the flu! (courtesy:

With a flu season like this one, my fertility practice typically goes “on hold.” No kidding, here’s the story. A man comes into the office with a sperm count down by 50% and sperm motility 75% lower than before:

“Doc, my sperm count is really low. Everyone’s talking about us needing IVF. Can you help me?”
“Have you been sick at all recently with a cold or flu?”
“No, haven’t missed a day of work this winter…although I did have a bout of cold last month.”
“Really, how long did it last?”
“Couple of weeks.”
“Did you have any fevers?”
“Didn’t really check my temperature.”
“Did you have any muscle aches?”
Yep, sure had those; could hardly get out of bed for several days…”

Bingo. The flu. Colds are typically fairly short lived and cause runny nose, congestion and sore throat but rarely cause high fevers and joint pains. The flu, however, can last several weeks and causes high fevers, fatigue, muscle, joint and headaches and chest tightness. And the fevers can really hurt sperm production. Similar to overheating your jewels from the outside in a hot tub, fevers cook them from the inside. Thank goodness it’s only temporary. So, we checked his semen analysis again, 6 weeks after the flu. Abracadra. All normal again. Just like magic.

Take Heed of the Flu

So take care of yourself this flu season. And if you happen to nab the “snout break,” pay attention to your body and:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Getting plenty of rest.
  • Use a cool-mist vaporizer or salt-water nasal spray to relieve congestion.
  • Take Tylenol for fevers and muscle aches.

With high fevers, you can expect to write off a couple of months of fertility, but things should normalize once you’re well again. This flu season, heed the African proverb: “However long the night, the dawn will break.”

Dr. Paul Turek, Medical Contributor

View posts by Dr. Paul Turek, Medical Contributor
Dr. Paul Turek is an internationally known thought leader in men’s reproductive and sexual health care and research. A fellowship trained, board-certified physician by the American Board of Urology (ABU), he has received numerous honors and awards for his work and is an active member in professional associations worldwide. His recent lectures, publications and book titles can be found in his curriculum vitae.
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