Rhinopharyngitis – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


Rhinopharyngitis is a combination of inflammation of the nose and throat . Those affected suffer from a runny nose and sore throat.

What is rhinopharyngitis?

Rhinopharyngitis occurs when there is inflammation of the nasal mucosa ( rhinitis ) and the pharyngeal mucosa (pharyngitis). The disease is also known as the common cold and is harmless in nature. The symptoms go away on their own after about a week. However, rhinopharyngitis is also considered to be very contagious.

It is particularly widespread in the cool seasons of autumn and winter, because the cooling of certain parts of the body such as the nose, ears, fingers and toes has a favorable effect on the development of this infection, as the human immune system is affected. The incubation period of rhinopharyngitis is between two and five days. Secondary bacterial infection is not uncommon.


Viruses are the most common cause of rhinopharyngitis. A distinction must be made between an acute and a chronic form. Acute rhinopharyngitis is usually caused by viruses. These are rhinoviruses, adenoviruses, parainfluenza viruses or influenza viruses. After infection, these viruses spread through the mucous membrane of the nose and throat.

If the mucous membrane and immune system are already weakened, the harmful germs have an easy time of it and quickly trigger an inflammation of the nose and throat. Even on the surface of the skin, the pathogens survive for a few hours. Risk factors for damage to the mucous membrane are cigarette consumption, dry warm air and allergies , hormone disorders or metabolic disorders .

In some cases, the viral disease leads to the onset of purulent rhinopharyngitis. This in turn is caused by bacteria such as streptococci , staphylococci or pneumococci . If several infections occur in a row, doctors speak of chronic rhinopharyngitis. This becomes noticeable through a permanent purulent-slimy secretion. Possible causes of chronic rhinopharyngitis are chronic tonsillitis or enlargement of the pharyngeal tonsils ( hyperplasia ).

However, it is also possible that rhinopharyngitis is caused by an allergy. The respiratory disease can be caused by numerous allergens. The symptoms often spread to other organs and trigger bronchial asthma , eczema or conjunctivitis . Grass, grain or tree pollen as well as animal hair and house dust mites are considered to be the culprits.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

At the onset of rhinopharyngitis, those affected experience exhaustion and fatigue . It is not uncommon for them to also suffer from sore throats , headaches , joint problems and a slight fever . In the further course, a watery, clear secretion runs out of the nose, which is a runny nose . As it progresses, the consistency of the sniffles becomes thicker.

If there is a bacterial infection, the mucus will take on a green-yellow discoloration. Since the nasal mucous membranes also swell considerably, breathing through the nose is made considerably more difficult. Sometimes there is also a feeling of pressure inside the ears, which can lead to a temporary hearing loss. Not infrequently, the patient also suffers from other symptoms such as hoarseness , coughing and chills . There is also reddening of the throat, which usually feels dry.

Those affected often have pain and difficulty swallowing , which makes eating, drinking and speaking difficult. An unpleasant burning sensation in the throat region is also possible. Children are at risk of high fever. A bacterial infection becomes noticeable through deposits of pus that are on the pharyngeal mucosa.

Diagnosis & disease progression

If a doctor has to be consulted because of the rhinopharyngitis, the doctor first records the medical history of the patient. He then performs a thorough examination of the throat. In order to be able to diagnose the infestation with bacteria, a swab is taken from the throat area. This can be evaluated using a quick test and thus provides further information.

It is also important to differentiate rhinopharyngitis from allergic rhinitis. In some cases, rhinopharyngitis is also caused by a so-called childhood disease such as chickenpox , measles or scarlet fever , which the doctor must determine.

The course of the disease of rhinopharyngitis is usually positive. The symptoms subside on their own after a few days. In some cases, however, complications are possible due to secondary bacterial infection.


The typical symptoms of rhinopharyngitis can develop into serious complications as the disease progresses. As the disease progresses, severe fever often occurs, which is almost always associated with cardiovascular problems, severe malaise and other infections. This is accompanied by symptoms such as chills and body aches, which in turn are associated with complications.

The typical difficulty in swallowing can lead to aspiration of leftover food, which in some cases can lead to pneumonia. If a secondary bacterial infection develops, other immune, intestinal, and cardiovascular disorders are likely. In addition, the initial symptoms increase and cause severe symptoms. Possible superinfections include middle ear infections, sinusitis or laryngitis.

A severe course of the disease leads to rheumatic fever and the resulting joint and heart problems. Even with timely treatment, complications can occur, for example as a result of taking antipyretic drugs, painkillers or antibiotics. Corresponding preparations always carry the risk of side effects and interactions. Addictive behavior can develop with prolonged use of nasal drops or nasal sprays. Late effects such as kidney and liver damage cannot be ruled out either.

When should you go to the doctor?

If there is a runny nose, a red throat with itching and pain, and signs of fever, rhinopharynghitis may be the cause. A doctor should be consulted if symptoms do not resolve on their own within two to three days. Children should be presented to the pediatrician immediately if they have a fever or respiratory problems . People who suffer from a viral infection or allergy are also among the risk groups and should have the symptoms mentioned quickly clarified. This applies in particular if skin changes or asthmatic symptoms also occur.

Rhinopharynghitis is treated by an ear, nose and throat doctor or an allergist . Other contact points are specialists in internal diseases and a dermatologist . In the case of chronic conditions that cannot be alleviated by conservative treatment measures, the doctor can also consult alternative medicine. Inflammation of the nasal and pharyngeal mucosa can be treated well if it is diagnosed early. If left untreated, symptoms worsen and there is a risk of developing chronic or allergic rhinopharynghitis.

Treatment & Therapy

In the treatment of rhinopharyngitis, its symptoms are combated. This includes the use of nasal drops or nasal sprays to bring the swollen nasal mucous membrane down again. Rinsing the mouth with disinfectant solutions, applying warm neck wraps, drinking hot tea and taking lozenges, which have a pain-relieving effect, are also considered helpful.

Antipyretics can also be used to treat fever . If bacteria trigger a purulent inflammation in the nose and throat, the patient is usually given germ-killing antibiotics . During the illness, it is advisable to supply the body with plenty of fluids. To moisten the air in the room, it is advisable to place damp cloths on the heaters in order to avoid further irritation of the nasal mucosa.

Although the rhinopharyngitis usually disappears after 14 days at the latest, it still takes three or four weeks for the mucosa to regain its full functionality. There is therefore a risk of reinfection during this period.


To prevent rhinopharyngitis, strengthening the immune system is recommended. For this purpose, care should be taken to ensure a sufficient supply of vitamins. Equally important are a balanced diet, going to the sauna and getting enough exercise.


Rhinopharyngitis is caused by cold viruses, the mucous membranes in the nose and throat are inflamed at the same time. Classic symptoms are a burning sensation in the throat, which is intensified when swallowing food, swollen mucous membranes and secretion in the nose. Follow-up care is advisable to permanently eliminate the inflammation.

A relapse, which could occur due to insufficiently treated symptoms, must be prevented. The aim is for the patient to be free of symptoms and for the rhinopharyngitis to heal completely. Treatment is in the form of medication. A visit to the family doctor or ENT specialist is recommended so that the patient receives medicine that is tailored to them.

Antibiotics, on the other hand, should be avoided as they fight bacteria instead of viruses. In addition to the medicines prescribed by the doctor, home remedies such as chamomile tea help to alleviate the symptoms. Follow-up care is combined with therapy and ends with the healing of the rhinopharyngitis.

The patient can take less aftercare himself, but can take preventive measures. Up to a month after healing, there is an increased risk of infection. If cold room air is avoided, the neck area is warmed with towels or wool scarves, a saline throat spray is used and the doctor’s instructions are followed, renewed inflammation of the mucous membranes can be prevented.

You can do that yourself

Rhinopharyngitis can be very uncomfortable and distressing for those affected. Depending on the cause, different measures can be taken to relieve existing symptoms.

The secretion of the mostly clear secretion is mainly caused by the swelling of the nasal mucosa. To counteract this, decongestant nasal sprays and nose drops can be used. This makes breathing easier. However, nasal sprays in particularly high doses should only be used rarely and especially at night. Overuse can lead to addiction. The throat mucosa can also be soothed. Painkilling lozenges and drinking warm teas are recommended here. In addition, nasal douches with saline solutions and inhalation with menthol can have an expectorant effect.

Existing fever and headaches can be combated with mild painkillers. Ibuprofen and paracetamol are particularly suitable here , as they are well tolerated and at the same time have an anti-inflammatory and decongestant effect. Since most rhinopharyngitis is viral, antibiotics should only be used for purulent throat infections or sinus infections.

The duration of the disease itself cannot be influenced much and lasts individually about one to two weeks. During this time, patients should rest, sleep a lot and be treated symptomatically. It is also advisable to comply with general hygiene measures, since the patients are contagious to other people through droplet infection.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.