Nasopharyngitis - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
- Nasopharyngitis (also known as a common cold) is a medical term used to refer to the swelling of the nasal passages and the back of the throat.
- Nasopharyngitis is caused typically by a virus, the most common virus being rhinovirus.
- Common colds are contagious and spread via tiny airborne droplets that enter the body through the mouth, nose and eyes.
- Nasopharyngitis symptoms include nasal and chest congestion, coughing, a low fever, body fatigue, head congestion/headaches, sneezing and runny nose. For most people, common colds last anywhere between a week and 10 days. It is advisable to seek medical assistance if symptoms are not subsiding or improving within that time period.
- Nasopharyngitis is diagnosed by a thorough physical examination of the ears, nose, throat areas and further imaging tests such as chest X-rays to check for signs of congestion and any other underlying cause.
- There are many home remedies for common cold that doctors may suggest to manage symptoms. Consult a general physician on MFine today to find a treatment plan suited to your symptoms. Refer to more of our medical guides for in-depth information treatment options for various other health-related conditions.
Chapter 1: What is Nasopharyngitis?
Nasopharyngitis, otherwise known as a common cold, is a medical term used to refer to swelling of the nasal passages and the back of the throat. Physicians may also refer to this condition as rhinitis.
Nasopharyngitis or the common cold is caused by, typically, a virus that enters our bodies through the nose, mouth or eyes. Colds are contagious and generally spread through air and water droplets expelled from an infected person when they cough, sneeze, talk, or even blow their nose in close proximity to a healthy individual.
The infection can also be caught touching virus-contaminated items such as phones, toys, doorknobs and then touching any part of your nose, mouth or eyes. Colds tend to spread at a faster rate in any enclosed group setting like offices, classrooms, crowded places, where there is close human contact.
Nasopharyngitis commonly affects children below 6 years of age. However, healthy adults may also experience two to three bouts of the infection every year. Recovery from nasopharyngitis is no longer than a week or 10 days for most people however, symptoms can linger for longer than usual for those who smoke. Nevertheless, it is advised to see a physician if you are catching frequent colds or if your common cold symptoms last longer than 10 days.
Chapter 2: Nasopharyngitis Symptoms
Nasopharyngitis or common cold symptoms appear anywhere in between one and three days of catching the infection. While symptoms for most people generally last only a week or 10 days, in some cases they can last longer than that. Some common Viral cold symptoms include:
- Sneezing and runny nose
- Head congestion or headaches
- Sore throat
- Body fatigue and body aches
Although many of these symptoms may be painful and irritating, they go away on their own and do not cause lasting harm or permanent damage to your body. However, in some cases, symptoms can get severe and would need medical attention.
When to seek medical assistance?
For adults, it is advised to consult with a physician if you experience:
- Fever temperature reading higher than 101.3 Fahrenheit or 38.5 Celsius
- A fever that has lasted longer than 5 days
- A fever that has recurred in a short period of time
- Extreme muscle weakness or fatigue
- Severe sore throat
- Severe headache or sinus pain
Common colds in children generally do not require medical assistance but it is important that you consult a physician immediately if your baby or child experiences:
- A fever temperature reading of 100.4 F (especially in newborns younger than 12 weeks)
- A fever that is continually rising and not subsiding
- A fever that lasts more than two days
- Common cold symptoms that worsen over time
- Severe headaches or coughs
- Severe drowsiness
- Ear pain
- reduced appetite
Chapter 3: Causes of Nasopharyngitis
The common cold is caused by rhinovirus, the most common virus worldwide to cause colds. The virus finds its way to your body through your mouth, eyes or nasal passages. It is highly contagious and gets transmitted from person to person through tiny air/water droplets upon close human contact. Moreover, handshakes with an infected individual or touching already contaminated objects and then touching your eyes, mouth or nose with the same hand can lead to you catching the infection. Sharing items such as water bottles, drink glasses, towels etc. with an infected person may also cause the virus to spread.
Who is at risk of getting a cold?
Several factors can increase your likelihood of nasopharyngitis. They include:
- A person’s age. Children who are below the age of 6 are most likely to catch colds. The risk is even higher if they spend most of their time in child-care/day-care settings.
- Weak immune system. An immune system that has been weakened due to chronic illness or other reasons increases one’s risk of nasopharyngitis. Doing full body checks from time to time are recommended to monitor your overall health and reduce your risk of frequently catching colds.
- Seasons. In both children and adults, cold and fever symptoms are seen to be more common during winter and monsoon seasons or colder months of the year.
- Smoking. Both active and passive smokers are more likely to catch a cold and experience severe nasopharyngitis symptoms than those who are less exposed to cigarette smoke. Getting a smoker’s risk assessment may be helpful in identifying your risk level for colds and the severity of your symptoms.
- Exposure in group settings. Continuous exposure to crowds or a group of people in an enclosed setting such as aeroplanes, schools, offices etc. increases your chances of catching the infection from them.
Chapter 4: Nasopharyngitis Diagnosis and Treatment
The first step in a nasopharyngitis diagnosis involves a thorough physical examination by a physician based on your symptoms. This examination comprises of:
- A close examination of your ears, nose and throat. Further, the doctor may proceed to swab your nose or throat to check for signs of influenza or other infections.
- A close examination of your lymph nodes for signs of swelling
- A stethoscopic examination of your heart and lungs while you breathe to check for signs of fluid collection.
If an infection or another condition is suspected the doctor may carry out chest X-rays and other imaging tests to rule out the underlying cause of your symptoms. However, if you happen to experience frequent colds or if your nasopharyngitis keeps recurring, you may be referred to an ENT specialist for a further diagnosis.
Common Cold Treatments
Unfortunately antibiotics cannot be used to treat cold as this condition is caused by a virus. However, antibiotics can be prescribed to prevent co-infection with harmful bacteria that can invade the body when immunity is compromised. Usually, common cold treatments are targeted at reducing its symptoms.
Doctors recommend ample rest and plenty of fluids for patients suffering from viral cold symptoms. Cold remedies such as cough syrups, painkillers and nasal sprays that are available over the counter may also be prescribed to ease the pain and treat cold and fever related symptoms. Refer to more of our medical guides for information on nutrition and diet remedies for similar conditions.
Chapter 5: Home Remedies for Common Cold
Dealing with a cold is never a pleasant experience. Most people recover from colds within a week to 10 days and don’t require extensive medical treatment. Many have found several home remedies for common cold that have proved to be effective in managing symptoms. They include:
- Increasing your fluid intake. Increasing your fluid intake is one of the many cold remedies that help you detoxify your body and aid in quick recovery. Some great fluid options that soothe symptoms are water, warm lemon water, clear soup broth and fresh juices. Caffeine and alcohol tend to dehydrate the body and must be avoided during a cold.
- Drinking Chicken soup. Studies have shown that drinking chicken soup is a great home remedy for colds. It is said to have a mild anti-inflammatory effect on the body which helps in relieving congestion and easing other associated symptoms.
- Resting. Taking ample rest during a cold infection is important for recovery. Some cold and fever medications are also known to make you drowsy. By resting at home, you also prevent spreading the infection to others around you.
- Steam inhalation. Steam inhalation has shown to be one of the home remedies for common cold that help in clearing up your nasal and respiratory passages and relieve head congestion.
- Salt water gargling. A sore throat or an itchy throat that is an associated symptom of nasopharyngitis can be temporarily relieved by gargling with ¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt dissolved in warm water 2-3 times a day depending on the discomfort.
- Saline nasal drops. Saline drops help relieve nasal congestion and are a common cold treatment at home for many individuals. They are available to purchase over-the-counter and are also safe to use on children. General physicians on MFine can help with providing information on brands and recommended dosage based on your symptoms.
Preventing common cold
Although there isn’t a vaccine for nasopharyngitis or common cold, some precautionary measures that require only common sense can be taken to prevent its spread. Preventing common cold can be as easy as:
- Frequently washing your hands. Washing your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water can help in keeping cold-causing viruses at bay. Using an alcohol based sanitizer can also help during times when access to clean water and soap is not available.
- Disinfecting frequently touched objects. Cleaning highly accessed areas such as kitchens and bathroom countertops thoroughly with an alcohol based disinfectant and also frequently touched items such as doorknobs, cupboard handles, taps etc. can help in containing its spread especially when someone in your home is dealing with a nasopharyngitis infection. Since children are more susceptible to getting colds than adults, washing your child’s toys periodically can also help in preventing its spread.
- Using paper napkins or tissues. If you have coughing, sneezing and runny nose symptoms, using tissues or paper napkins instead of the hand to contain any nasal mucus discharge is always advised. Safely disposing them afterward and washing your hands thoroughly reduces the chances of the virus being transmitted through the air. If you don’t have a tissue readily at hand, sneezing or coughing into the bend of your elbow is always better than using your hands to cover your mouth.
- Avoid sharing glasses or utensils. Choosing to use your own drinking glass or utensil for food especially when someone in your home is down with a cold, ensures that the infection is contained to that person. Thorough washing of utensils after use, with an effective dish soap is also recommended to also prevent the spread of any waterborne diseases such as typhoid to you or your child.
- Steering clear of those who may have a cold. Avoiding close contact with anyone you know who may be infected or showing symptoms is another way of preventing common cold.
- Taking proper care of yourself. Maintaining a healthy weight by eating a well balanced diet rich in nutrients and minerals, getting an average of 30 minutes of exercise per day, getting 6-7 hours of good sleep every night and managing stress levels are some self-care measures that are proven to be effective in boosting the immune system and keeping colds at bay. Refer to more guides containing information relating to food and diet here.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does a common cold last?
Common cold symptoms in children and adults usually last anywhere between a week and 10 days and do not require serious medical treatment. However, it is advised to consult a physician immediately if the symptoms intensify or do not subside after 10 days.
What are the first signs of a common cold?
Some signs that follow a common cold include nasal congestion, sore throat, body fatigue, headache, coughs, low fever, sneezing and runny nose. If you happen to show any of these signs, doctors on MFine are available to provide you with an accurate diagnosis for your symptoms.
What is the best cold medicine for children?
Cold medicines such as pain relievers, cough syrups and nasal decongestants may be given to children to ease symptoms. General physicians on MFine are more than able to help you with the best cold medicine for your child based on his/her symptoms.
What should I eat when I have a cold?
Consuming ample fluids such as warm lemon water, fresh juices, clear soup broth and even chicken soup have proved to help relieve congestion and ease cold symptoms. General physicians on MFine are available to provide you with a diet plan suited to your symptoms that would aid in your quick recovery.
What are some common cold treatments at home?
Increasing your fluid intake, drinking chicken soup, resting, steam inhalation, salt water gargling, and saline nasal drops are some common cold treatments at home that one can follow to manage congestion and discomfort associated with cold.