The cotton rat was evaluated as a model for anti-inflammatory and antiviral influenza therapy. Beginning 3 days after intranasal infection with 10(7) tissue culture infectious doses-50% (TCID)(50) of an H3N2 human influenza, animals were treated topically via intranasal lavage with a range of doses of triamcinolone acetonide (1, 4, or 16 mg/kg), alone or in combination with a neuraminidase inhibitor or anti-influenza convalescent serum. Pulmonary histopathologic changes were dramatically decreased in animals treated with 4 or 16 mg/kg of triamcinolone, with little additional benefit from addition of a neuraminidase inhibitor or topical serum, agents which were much less effective when used alone. A high degree of suppression of IFN-gamma levels was observed in all combinations where 4 or 16 mg/kg of triamcinolone were used. Viral replication was not prolonged by corticosteroid therapy. Tissue damage during influenza infection may be greatly reduced by combination antiviral and anti-inflammatory therapy.