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Rhinopharyngitis Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

The nasopharyngitis is a very frequent infection of the respiratory tract, specifically the nasopharynx, and the cavity extending from the nasal cavity to the pharynx.

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

The symptoms of rhinopharyngitis, similar to those of colds, usually persist between 7 and 10 days. Very common in young children from the age of 6 months, it appears mostly in autumn and winter. A child may have between 7 and 10 episodes of nasopharyngitis a year.

In Canada, nasopharyngitis is usually diagnosed and treated like a cold, while in France, rhinopharyngitis and colds are considered different pathologies.

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Rhinopharyngitis weakens the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. Sometimes, in the absence of treatment, some children may develop bacterial superinfection that causes 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).

Symptoms of Rhinopharyngitis

  • Sore throat or red throat
  • Nasal discharge or nasal congestion;
  • A light cough;
  • Fever, most of the time moderate (less than 39 ° C);
  • Headaches.

People at risk for Rhinopharyngitis

  • Young children.  Due to the immaturity of their immune system, most children contract at least one nasopharyngitis before the age of 1 year. They are particularly vulnerable until about age 6 and can catch the virus up to 10 times a year. Children attending kindergarten, day care or day care are more likely to have nasopharyngitis. As they grow older, their immune system becomes more resistant.
  • People whose immune system is weakened by illness or taking a medication.

Risk factors

  • Stress lowers the immune system and predisposes to colds or rhinopharyngitis.

Prevention of nasopharyngitis

Basic preventive measures
Hygiene measures

  • Wash your hands regularly and teach children to do the same, especially after blowing your nose.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as glasses, utensils, towels, etc.) of a sick person. Avoid close contacts with an affected person.
  • When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, then discard the tissue. Teach children to sneeze or cough in the crook of their elbows.
  • When possible, stay home when you are sick to avoid contaminating people around you.

Hand hygiene

Ministry of Health and Social Services of Quebec:

How to protect against respiratory viral infections, National Institute for Prevention and Health Education (imps), France

Environment and lifestyle

  • Maintain room temperature between 18 ° C and 20 ° C, to avoid a too dry or too hot atmosphere. Moist air helps alleviate some of the symptoms of nasopharyngitis, such as sore throat and nasal congestion.
  • Regularly ventilate the rooms during autumn and winter.
  • Do not smoke or expose children to tobacco smoke as much as possible. Tobacco irritates the respiratory tract and promotes infections and complications due to rhinopharyngitis.
  • Exercise and adopt good eating habits.
  • Sleep enough.
  • Reduce stress. In times of stress, be alert and adopt behaviors to relax (moments of relaxation, rest, reduced activities in case of overwork, sports, etc.).


Measures to prevent complications
  • Observe the basic measures for the prevention of nasopharyngitis.
  • Blow your nose regularly, always one nostril after another. Use disposable tissues to eliminate secretions.
  • Clean the nasal cavity with saline spray.

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Medical treatment of rhinopharyngitis

In the majority of cases, a nasopharyngitis cures itself after about 1 week. The treatment is primarily aimed at relieving symptoms such as sore throat, headache and nasal congestion. Some measures are recommended by doctors to improve comfort and prevent complications:

  • Give yourself a lot of rest . In children, promote quiet activities, away from 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.
  • Maintain a moderate ambient temperature (less than 21 ° C) and humidity between 80 and 90% to liquefy airway secretions and reduce coughing. If necessary, use a humidifier.
  • Use nasal drops or saline solution to relieve congestion. In children, washing the nose with saline or saline is sometimes necessary. They are found in pharmacy (for example, Salinex, Hydrasense). You can also prepare one yourself.
  • Take showers or hot baths.
  • To relieve skin irritation around the nostrils, apply some Vaseline (or petroleum jelly) to the sensitive area. These products can be found in pharmacy.
Homemade saline solution recipe

Dissolve 1/2 tsp. teaspoonful (2.5 ml) of salt in 240 ml of boiled water and cooled. It is important to respect this proportion, so as not to irritate the mucous membranes of the nose. This solution can be kept 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.
  • Decongestants. To relieve nasal congestion, decongestants in the form of nasal sprays (Dristan, Otrivin) should be used for up to 3 days in adults. Prolonged use may irritate the mucous membranes of the nose and cause chronic inflammation. Decongestants taken orally have fewer side effects. For children, it is best to use saline inhalation.
  • Cold medicine. Many cold medications are available in pharmacies as day / night tablets. Most are associated with an ibuprofen (NSAID) or acetaminophen (paracetamol) type of pain reliever and an oral decongestant (pseudoephedrine). These medications (Actifed, Advil cold and sinus, Benylin cold and flu …) relieve the symptoms of rhinopharyngitis, 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 can sometimes be prescribed to children who develop a complication due to nasopharyngitis, such as otitis.

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