Nasopharyngitis is another name for the common cold. It is a mild infection of the nose and throat that can produce symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, and coughing.

Nasopharyngitis develops due to viruses. Currently, however, there are no antiviral medications that could fight them. Antibiotics will not treat a viral infection, so doctors prescribe them only if a person has a complication due to a bacterial infection.

Over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicine may provide temporary relief from symptoms, but it does not shorten the course of the infection. Doctors usually advise individuals with a cold to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and seek medical attention if symptoms become severe.

Keep reading to learn more about nasopharyngitis, including the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

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Nasopharyngitis is the inflammation of the nasal passages and the pharynx, or throat. It is another name for the common cold.

According to research, adults have an average of two to four colds per year, usually during the colder months. Children may catch between six and 10 colds per year at school or day care. The condition is usually harmless and goes away without serious complications. People typically recover in 7–10 days.

More than 200 viruses can cause nasopharyngitis, but the rhinovirus is the most common one, as it accounts for 10–40% of colds.

The condition is highly contagious. People can catch it through droplets from a person with a cold that spread through touch or inhalation.

After a cold virus enters the body, symptoms start within 1–3 days. Typical symptoms include:

At times, individuals may also experience:

While a person may mistake a cold for the flu, symptoms of the flu are more severe. In addition, a cold develops gradually, while the flu starts suddenly with a high fever, chills, and body aches.

Learn about the stages of the common cold here.

Healthcare professionals do not need special tests to diagnose a cold. People are very familiar with the symptoms, and therefore they generally do not contact a doctor for treatment.

On the occasions that they do, however, a doctor has only to look inside their throat and ask about their symptoms to know whether they have a cold.

When doctors suspect someone has the flu or a more serious condition, they may order a nose or throat swab to help reach a diagnosis.

When a person has nasopharyngitis, they should rest and drink plenty of fluids. The American Lung Association (ALA) also advises that people who smoke either quit or cut back, at least until they feel batter.

Individuals should also avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, especially during the course of the illness, as it can lead to further irritation of the throat and the rest of the airway.

There are no medications that can fight the viruses causing colds or shorten the duration of symptoms.

Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections, and therefore they do not help with viral infections, such as colds. However, doctors may prescribe them for bacterial complications that sometimes arise from nasopharyngitis.

Some manufacturers of natural remedies claim that their products can fight a cold, but scientific studies do not solidly support the claims. Moreover, certain natural products may have side effects. Such remedies include:

One other potential remedy is elderberry. The existing evidence shows that elderberry may help reduce the duration and severity of the common cold. However, more evidence is necessary to show this consistently.

Learn more about natural remedies for the common cold here.

OTC medications can provide temporary relief from some symptoms, but they will not make the cold go away quicker. Acetaminophen can help alleviate fever and aches, while decongestants may make it easier for a person to breathe.

However, the ALA warns that ingredients in cold medication may cause problems in some people, including the following:

  • Acetaminophen and other pain relievers in many nonprescription products can worsen asthma and peptic ulcer.
  • Decongestants can adversely affect high blood pressure and thyroid disease.
  • Aspirin may cause a rare but severe condition called Reye’s syndrome, which most commonly affects those under the age of 18 years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise people consult a doctor if one or more of the below apply:

  • The symptoms are serious or unusual.
  • The symptoms last longer than 10 days.
  • A child with the cold is younger than 3 months and is lethargic or has a fever.

In addition, a person should contact a doctor if they develop flu symptoms, such as chills, fever, and body or muscle aches. They also should do so if they are at high risk of the flu, such as:

  • adults aged 65 years and older
  • pregnant people
  • individuals with certain medical conditions, including:

The CDC offers the tips below to help people protect themselves and others from a cold.

A person can reduce their likelihood of catching a cold by:

  • washing the hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds
  • staying away from others who got sick
  • avoiding touching the mouth, eyes, and nose with unwashed hands

Individuals can lower the risk of transmitting a cold to others by:

  • staying at home after getting sick
  • moving away from people before coughing or sneezing
  • avoiding close contact with others, such as hugging or shaking hands
  • sneezing or coughing into a tissue and then throwing it away
  • washing the hands after sneezing or coughing

Nasopharyngitis is a very common condition involving inflammation of the nasal passages and throat. It is another name for the common cold.

On average, adults have two to four colds per year, and children may have between six and 10 colds per year. The condition usually lasts 7–10 days.

Doctors typically diagnose nasopharyngitis without medical tests. No medications can shorten the course of the condition, and there is not enough research to prove effectiveness and safety of natural remedies.