Sniffs and coughs are NOT the only signs of sickness to look for: How eyes, lips and skin tell you who is ill!

You can spot signs of sickness through eyes, lips and skin and When someone says ‘you don’t look so good,’ you might want to head to the doctor, according to new research. Detecting illness is essential to survival from an evolutionary perspective, but it was previously unclear if and how humans could identify signs of it just by looking at one another.


With a particularly bad flu season upon us, symptoms like a runny nose or a persistent cough seem like good potential indicators of who to avoid if we want to dodge the bug.

But researchers in Sweden, the US and Germany collectively found that we are able to tell the difference between a sick person and a healthy one just by looking at their faces.

The annual flu epidemic has already reached widespread status and claimed the lives of a number of people, including at least 12 children. Reports have been swirling around that the flu shot may not be as effective against this year’s strain, leaving many looking for alternative preventative methods.

The new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, shows that we might just be able to keep ourselves safe from sickness by searching for physical signs in peoples’ eyes, skin and lips.Researchers from Stockholm University and New York University injected half of their 22 subjects with a placebo and the other half with a drug that causes brief but notable inflammation and signs of sickness.

Two hours later – just as those given the real injection were starting to get puffy – the researchers snapped photographs of all of the study participants.

The study used two different groups of 60 observers to assess the 16 pictures after eliminating six images from the original batch for being too inconsistent.

Observers with no medical or related training were able to correctly guess that 13 out of 16 of the people whose photos they saw were sick. Looking back at the side-by-side pictures of sick and healthy people, the researchers identified eight factors that make a person look sick, though, surprisingly, the features most drastically affected by the injection were not the ones that observers most closely associated with looking sick. Of those eight, three signs stood out as making people look sick.

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