There are many infections that can affect the human body. Some of these are more common than others. Certain types of infections are also generally not considered serious. Both bacteria and viruses can cause infection to the human body.
One of the most frequently diagnosed conditions in medical practices would be nasopharyngitis. This condition causes common cold symptoms. It is also referred to by other names.
Symptoms are often mild but can be more serious in some cases. We take a look at what nasopharyngitis is. We also consider the symptoms and the population that have the highest risk. The article also explores the diagnostics process and current treatment approaches.
What Is Nasopharyngitis?
Nasopharyngitis is an infection that can affect various regions of the upper body. It is common to find that nasopharyngitis affects the nasal passages of a patient. It is also possible for the condition to cause infection in the upper respiratory tract. The term nasopharyngitis generally refers to what most people know as a cold.
In a large number of patients, nasopharyngitis is associated with a viral infection. There are, however, cases where a bacterium is responsible for the infection. The doctor may sometimes diagnose the condition as rhinitis.
For nasopharyngitis to develop, the patient has to be exposed to a virus or bacterium that causes the infection. This generally happens through droplets. The droplets can spread through the air. This is why it is often easy for the virus to spread to new hosts.
Droplets that contain the virus can also contaminate everyday objects. This may include a telephone or even a doorknob. When exposed to droplets that contain the microorganism, the patient may touch their mouth, nose, or their eyes. This causes the pathogen to enter their body. In turn, nasopharyngitis may develop.
There are more than 100 different viruses that are known to cause nasopharyngitis. In most patients, the viral infection is caused by rhinovirus. This is one of the most contagious viruses that causes a common cold.
Most patients find those symptoms clear up within ten days after the infection occurred. There are, however, cases where chronic nasopharyngitis symptoms may develop. This is the case when the patient experiences symptoms for a period longer than six weeks. At this time, an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist need to be consulted.
It is important to note that nasopharyngitis is also associated with secondary infections. Some of these infections may be more serious than the common cold.
Some possible secondary infections may include strep throat, bronchitis, sinusitis, and pneumonia. Some people also develop an infection in their ear. Patients with asthma are at a higher risk of experiencing more severe symptoms.
What Are The Symptoms Of Viral Nasopharyngitis?
There are a few general nasopharyngitis symptoms that patients should be able to recognize. In most cases, these symptoms will not be serious or severe. The patient should feel that they recover within a week. It does take up to 10 days in some patients.
The most common symptoms that have been associated with nasopharyngitis include:
- A stuffy nose is very common, as well as a runny nose. Sneezing is also generally common in people with a cold. These symptoms are often associated with a post-nasal drip.
- Coughing may occur. In some cases, the coughing may feel persistent.
- The throat may feel scratchy. A sore throat is also relatively common.
- Eyes may be itchy during the infection period. Some patients complain about watery eyes.
- Headaches are relatively common in patients with nasopharyngitis. There is also a risk of general body aches.
- Many patients feel tired when they have this infection.
- A low fever is another common symptom to look out for.
In most patients, the symptoms associated with nasopharyngitis will not lead to long-term complications or effects. Still, the symptoms can be very unpleasant and cause the patient to feel irritated.
It is also important to note that more serious symptoms can develop if there is a secondary infection. Patients do need to take note of this possibility. Medical treatment will usually be more essential in such a case.
Who Is At Risk?
Some people are at a bigger risk for developing nasopharyngitis than others. Patients should recognize their own risk.
Individuals at high risk should implement appropriate strategies to help prevent the infection. Even though it is not considered a serious disease in most cases, the symptoms can still be unpleasant and disrupting.
Children, as well as babies, are the biggest risk group for nasopharyngitis. The viral form of this infection often spreads among schoolchildren. It is a highly contagious disease that easily spreads in large groups. A person is at the greatest risk of nasopharyngitis when they come into contact with an infected patient.
Some areas that generally put a person at a greater risk for this infection include:
- The gym is commonplace for the virus to spread.
- Office settings also create an opportunity for the virus to spread.
- Sports events where someone (or multiple individuals) are infected.
- Parties are also events where the virus can spread due to the crowding of people.
- You are also at great risk when entering a crowded bus.
Some people also have a generally higher risk due to an immune system that is weak. There are many diseases that can weaken the immune system. These conditions make a person more likely to catch a cold and develop nasopharyngitis.
How Does A Doctor Diagnose Viral Nasopharyngitis?
The diagnosis of viral nasopharyngitis is generally straightforward. Most patients will not require extensive testing to get the condition diagnosed. The process of diagnosing the condition starts with doctor consultation.
A doctor will ask the patient questions related to the symptoms they experience. The physician will particularly look for complaints about a sore throat, a runny nose, and itchy eyes. In patients with asthma, the physician may ask the patient if they are experiencing shortness of breath.
A physical exam will be performed on the patient. The doctor is likely to use a special tool during this process. They will listen to the chest cavity to find if there are any signs of a respiratory infection. The doctor will also need to look at the patient’s throat and nasal cavity. Most doctors will look into the patient’s ear using a special tool. This allows them to check for signs of an ear infection.
During the physical exam, the doctor will also feel the patient’s lymph nodes. This is an important step, as the doctor needs to check for swollen lymph nodes.
There are some cases where a swab may be collected. This is generally the case if the doctor is not sure if the nasopharyngitis is caused by a bacterium or a virus. The swab will help the doctor determine if the patient has a bacterial nasopharyngitis. It also helps the doctor pin down if the cause may rather be influenza or another virus.
There are times when a general physician will not be able to provide an accurate diagnosis. This is generally the case when the patient has a recurring problem with nasopharyngitis.
The doctor may choose to refer the patient to an ENT specialist. This will be the case in a scenario where the patient has chronic nasopharyngitis too. An ENT specialist focuses on diagnosing and treating conditions related to the ears, nose, and throat.
How Is Viral Nasopharyngitis Treated?
The treatment for nasopharyngitis depends on the cause. Both viruses and bacteria can cause a patient to develop nasopharyngitis. This is why a swab is often advised. A swab becomes essential if rest and other standard treatment procedures do not cause symptoms of nasopharyngitis to disappear.
When the patient has a viral nasopharyngitis, the use of antibiotics will not cure the condition. Antibiotics are developed to fight against bacterial infections. They do not work in cases where the infection is caused by a virus.
No specific cure exists for nasopharyngitis that is caused by a virus. Instead, the doctor will rather focus on providing treatment for the symptoms of patient experiences. Most cases of viral nasopharyngitis tend to improve within days. Some patients experience the symptoms for over a week. The treatments may ease the disruption that viral nasopharyngitis can have on a patient’s day-to-day life.
There are several over-the-counter drugs that can be used. This reduces the need for prescription medications.
Some of the treatments that can be used to help alleviate symptoms while the body fights against the viral infection include:
- Patients who experience pain and inflammation can use an NSAID. These are also known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They help to ease the swelling caused by the infection. Body aches and headaches may also improve with the use of these drugs. Ibuprofen is a common example of an NSAID. Some patients also find that aspirin helps.
- A decongestant may be advised to help reduce congestion in the patient’s nasal cavity. Pseudoephedrine is one of the most common decongestants used. A common brand name for pseudoephedrine is Sudafed.
- Some patients find that combining the use of a decongestant with a good antihistamine offers more significant relief of symptoms. Claritin D and Benadryl D are both excellent antihistamines that can be used with Sudafed.
- There are some OTC drugs that can help to thin mucus. Guaifenesin is a good example, often sold under the brand name Mucinex.
- If the patient has a stuffy nose, they may consider trying a nasal spray. These can help to unblock the nose. It may also be an effective solution for treating a nasal drip.
- Patients with a sore throat should consider using a lozenge. They can suck on these candy-styled medicines. The ingredients in lozenges tend to help numb the throat. Some also contain antiviral and antibacterial properties.
- If the patient coughs consistently, they may want to consider using cough medication. Dextromethorphan is a good option for reducing cough.
If a patient starts to take zinc supplementation when the symptoms just appear, they may find that the infection is not as severe. Zinc is an essential mineral that helps the immune system remain strong. Early supplementation with zinc is associated with less severe symptoms. The condition may also clear up faster.
Patients with influenza may consider using antiviral drugs. These drugs are developed to help the body get rid of the viruses causing infection faster.
In children, treatment options are more limited. Some OTC and prescription drugs can be harmful to young children. A syrup that contains Zinc sulfate is often advised for children.
A child with nasopharyngitis may also experience relief when using a saline spray. The nasal spray helps to relieve congestion. Some parents also use a vapor rub on their children’s chest. This may ease breathing as the viral infection runs its course.
A few home remedies are also available. Some patients do find that these remedies offer effective relief of their symptoms. A few common home remedies that people turn to include:
- Gargling with some saltwater can help. The salt should be dissolved in warm water. The saltwater may help to reduce soreness in the throat. Honey can also be added to the warm water instead of salt. This will have a similar effect.
- Smoking can irritate the lining of the throat and lungs. People who smoke should avoid this habit while they have a viral infection.
- Some people find that chicken soup is a good way to increase nutrient intake during a viral infection. It is a liquid food, making it easier to consume with congestion and other symptoms.
How Can You Prevent Nasopharyngitis?
Nasopharyngitis might not be serious in most cases, but it can be very inconvenient. This is why preventative measures are generally advised. There are ways for patients to effectively reduce their risk of catching a cold.
Good hygiene is considered one of the most important factors. A person should wash their hands frequently. An appropriate soap product should be used.
Hand washing should be done after coming back from town too. In cases where the person does not have access to soap, a hand sanitizer product can be used. It is important to ensure the sanitizer product contains a high percentage of alcohol. This helps to kill bacteria and viruses more effectively.
Surfaces in the house should be constantly disinfected. Doorknobs, countertops, and other items that are frequently interacted with should be kept clean.
It is also important that people ensure they do not spread the virus to others if they are infected. When sneezing, tissue should be used. This helps to prevent droplets from falling on surfaces. When this happens, the virus may spread to other people. The viral infection tends to be most contagious during the first three days. Staying indoors and limiting human contact during this time helps to further decrease the risk of contaminating another person.
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The common cold is a frequently diagnosed condition among the population. Doctors often refer to the common cold as nasopharyngitis.
Acute nasopharyngitis generally involves an inflammatory effect in the throat, as well as the patient’s nasal passages. This is essentially an infection that affects the upper respiratory tract. I
n most cases, the condition is not serious. Treatment depends on whether the patient has bacterial nasopharyngitis or a viral infection.