Understanding the symptoms of the common cold and influenza

Lancet Infect Dis. 2005 Nov;5(11):718-25. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(05)70270-X.


The common cold and influenza (flu) are the most common syndromes of infection in human beings. These diseases are diagnosed on symptomatology, and treatments are mainly symptomatic, yet our understanding of the mechanisms that generate the familiar symptoms is poor compared with the amount of knowledge available on the molecular biology of the viruses involved. New knowledge of the effects of cytokines in human beings now helps to explain some of the symptoms of colds and flu that were previously in the realm of folklore rather than medicine-eg, fever, anorexia, malaise, chilliness, headache, and muscle aches and pains. The mechanisms of symptoms of sore throat, rhinorrhoea, sneezing, nasal congestion, cough, watery eyes, and sinus pain are discussed, since these mechanisms are not dealt with in any detail in standard medical textbooks.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anorexia
  • Chills
  • Common Cold / physiopathology*
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human / physiopathology*
  • Pharyngitis
  • Sneezing