Nasopharyngitis: everything you need to know about this infection
Image by katemangostar on Freepik

Nasopharyngitis is a very common infection of the respiratory tract.

To learn more, see our dedicated article below.

What is nasopharyngitis?

Nasopharyngitis is a very common infection of the respiratory tract, specifically the nasopharynx, the cavity that extends from the nasal cavity to the pharynx.

It is caused by a virus that can spread from person to person through contaminated droplets (for example, when a person coughs or sneezes, or through contact with contaminated hands or objects). More than 100 different viruses can cause nasopharyngitis.

Nasopharyngitis symptoms, similar to the common cold, usually persist for 7 to 10 days. Very common in young children from the age of 6 months, it appears especially in autumn and winter. A child may have between 7 and 10 episodes of nasopharyngitis per year.

In Canada, nasopharyngitis is usually diagnosed and treated as a cold, while in France, nasopharyngitis and the common cold are considered different conditions.

Rhinopharyngitis: possible complications

Nasopharyngitis weakens the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. Sometimes, if left untreated, some children may develop a bacterial superinfection that leads to complications such as:

  • otitis media: an infection of the middle ear;
  • acute bronchitis: inflammation of the bronchi;
  • laryngitis: inflammation of the larynx or vocal cords

Some people are at higher risk of developing nasopharyngitis. Also, risk factors favor its appearance.

Discover them here.

Rhinopharyngitis: Symptoms

  • Sore throat or red throat;
  • runny nose or nasal congestion
  • mild cough
  • fever, mostly moderate (less than 39°C);
  • headaches.

Rhinopharyngitis: people at risk

Young children

Due to the immaturity of their immune system, most children get at least nasopharyngitis before the age of 1. They are particularly vulnerable up to about 6 years of age and can catch the virus up to 10 times a year.

Children who attend kindergarten, daycare, or nursery are more likely to get nasopharyngitis. As they grow, their immune systems become more resilient.


People whose immune system is weakened by illness or medication.

Rhinopharyngitis: risk factors

Stress lowers immune defenses and predisposes to colds or nasopharyngitis.

Certain preventive measures can be put in place to prevent the onset of nasopharyngitis.

Discover them in this article.

Rhinopharyngitis: preventive measures

Basic preventive measures

Hygiene measures

Wash their hands regularly and teach children to do the same, especially after blowing their noses.

Avoid sharing personal items such as glasses, utensils, towels, etc.) of a sick person. Avoid close contact with an affected person.

When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, then throw away the tissue. Teach children to sneeze or cough into the crook of their elbow.

When possible, stay home when you are sick to avoid contaminating the people around you.

Environment and lifestyle

Keep the room temperature between 18°C and 20°C, to avoid an atmosphere that is too dry or too hot. Humid air helps alleviate some symptoms of nasopharyngitis, such as sore throat and nasal congestion.

Ventilate rooms regularly during the fall and winter.

Do not smoke or expose children to tobacco smoke as little as possible. Tobacco irritates the respiratory tract and promotes infections and complications due to nasopharyngitis.

You have to have a good sleep rhythm and get enough sleep.

Reduce stress. In times of stress, be vigilant and adopt behaviors to relax (moments of relaxation, rest, reduction of activities in case of overwork, sports, etc.).

Measures to prevent complications

  • Observe basic measures for the prevention of nasopharyngitis;
  • blow your nose regularly, always one nostril after the other;
  • Clean the nasal cavity with a saline spray solution.

Nasopharyngitis heals itself after about a week. What treatments are appropriate?

All the details can be found in this article.

Rhinopharyngitis: treatments

In most cases, nasopharyngitis heals itself after about 1 week. Treatment is mainly aimed at relieving symptoms like sore throat, headache, and nasal congestion.

Certain measures are recommended by doctors to improve comfort and prevent complications.

Give yourself plenty of rest. In children, encourage quiet activities, away from the noise.

Drink at least 2 liters a day, liquids such as hot broth, herbal tea, water, or juice to maintain good hydration. In young children, make sure they are able to suck and breathe at the same time. Split meals as needed.

To relieve sore throat, gargle with warm salt water several times a day.

Keep a moderate room temperature (less than 21°C) and a humidity level between 80 and 90% in order to liquefy respiratory secretions and reduce coughing. If necessary, use a humidifier.

Use nasal drops or saline to relieve congestion. In children, washing the nose with saline or saline is sometimes necessary. They are found in pharmacies (for example, Salinex®, and Hydrasense®). You can also prepare one yourself.

Take hot showers or baths.

To relieve skin irritation around the nostrils, apply a little petroleum jelly (or petroleum jelly) to the sensitive area. These products can be found in pharmacies.

Homemade saline recipe

Dissolve 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) salt in 240 ml of boiled and cooled water. It is important to respect this proportion, so as not to irritate the mucous membranes of the nose. This solution can be stored for about 3 days in a clean bottle with a dropper.


Acetaminophen or paracetamol (Tylenol®, Tempra®, Acet®)

To relieve headache and mild fever. Aspirin (or acetylsalicylic acid) is contraindicated in children: it can cause Reye’s syndrome.

Although rare, this disease can cause inflammation of the liver and brain and can potentially be fatal. It is manifested by violent vomiting and a change in the mental state of the affected child, such as lethargy or confusion.


To relieve nasal congestion, decongestants in the form of nasal sprays (Dristan®, Otrivin®) should be used for a maximum period of 3 days in adults.

Prolonged use can irritate the mucous membranes of the nose and cause chronic inflammation. Decongestants taken orally have fewer adverse effects. For children, it is best to use saline by inhalation.

Cold medicines

Many cold medicines are available in pharmacies, in the form of day/night tablets. Most combine an ibuprofen-type painkiller (NSAID) or acetaminophen (paracetamol) and an oral decongestant (pseudoephedrine).

These medications (Actifed®, Advil cold and sinus, Benylin cold and flu®…) relieve the symptoms of nasopharyngitis,® but do not accelerate healing. They are not recommended for children.

Antibiotics should NOT be prescribed for nasopharyngitis, as this disease is caused by a virus. Antibiotics fight bacterial infections. Nevertheless, an antibiotic may sometimes be prescribed to children who develop a complication due to nasopharyngitis, such as otitis.

In the case of nasopharyngitis, some complementary approaches allow it to be treated in a more natural way.

Check out the list here.

Rhinopharyngitis: complementary approaches

Some supplements and herbal products could act on the immune system by strengthening the body’s defenses. They may reduce the chances of getting a cold or nasopharyngitis.

Ginseng (Panax ginseng)

Studies indicate that in conjunction with a flu vaccine, ginseng reduces the incidence of acute respiratory infections.

Echinacea (Echinacea sp)

Several studies analyzed the effectiveness of echinacea in preventing colds and respiratory infections. The results depend on the type of echinacea preparation used and also on the type of virus responsible for the respiratory infection.

Echinacea would also lose its preventive effectiveness after 3 months of use.

Vitamin C

According to a meta-analysis of 30 trials and 11,350 people, daily vitamin C supplements would be ineffective in preventing colds.

These supplements would not have more effect on the prevention of nasopharyngitis.

Astragalus (Astragalus membraceanus or Huang qi)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the root of this plant is used to increase the body’s resistance to viral infections. According to some Chinese studies, astragalus could strengthen the immune system, and thus prevent colds and respiratory infections11. It would also reduce symptoms due to viruses and speed up healing.

Image Credit: Image by katemangostar on Freepik

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