Effects of upper respiratory tract illnesses on mood and performance over the working day

Ergonomics. 2000 Jun;43(6):752-63. doi: 10.1080/001401300404724.


The present study examined whether volunteers with common colds showed impairments in objective and subjective indicators of alertness over the course of the working day. All the volunteers (n = 21) were tested when healthy to provide baseline data for simple and choice reaction time tasks, visual search tasks and ratings of mood. These measures were taken before work (08.30 hours), at lunchtime (13.00) and after work (17.30). When participants developed a cold (n = 6) they repeated the procedure. Volunteers (n = 15) who remained healthy were recalled as controls and also repeated the procedures. The results showed that those with colds had significantly slower simple and choice reaction times, and felt less alert, more tense and less sociable. The effects of having a cold on simple reaction time, alertness and anxiety increased over the day. This extends earlier research and shows that some of the effects of upper respiratory tract illnesses on mood and performance will depend on when assessments are made. These results also imply that performance and well-being at work will be impaired by upper respiratory tract illnesses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Common Cold / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupational Health
  • Reaction Time
  • Task Performance and Analysis*