Acute viral nasopharyngitis natural history, complications and prognosis

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1];Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Ahmed Younes M.B.B.CH [2]

Overview

If left untreated, the common cold resolves completely within 7-10 days. Common complications of acute viral nasopharyngitis include sinusitis, otitis media, and exacerbation of reactive airway disease. Prognosis is generally excellent: 50% of patients recover completely within 7 days, while 90% of patients recover within 15 days.

Natural History

If left untreated, the common cold resolves completely within 7-10 days.[1]

Complications

The majority of common cold bouts are passed without complications. However, complications might develop due to swelling of the nasal mucosa, which facilitates infection in the lower respiratory tract or the middle ear mucosa.[2][3]

Otitis media

The common cold may cause obstruction of Eustachian tubes, predisposing the patient to otitis media.

Sinusitis

Sinusitis is suspected when the symptoms of common cold are prolonged or not respond to treatment.

Pneumonia and lower respiratory tract infections

Although rhinovirus does not usually invade the lower respiratory tract mucosa, it may facilitate the invasion of other viruses or bacteria.

Exacerbation of reactive airway disease

Rhinovirus infections has been known to be coomplicated with acute asthma attacks.

Prognosis

Prognosis is generally excellent, with 50% of patients recovering completely within 7 days, and 90% recovering within 15 days.[1]

Complications usually occur in immunocompromised patients or patients at both age extremes.


References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Heikkinen T, Järvinen A (2003). "The common cold". Lancet. 361 (9351): 51–9. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(03)12162-9. PMID 12517470.
  2. Eccles R (2005). "Understanding the symptoms of the common cold and influenza". Lancet Infect Dis. 5 (11): 718–25. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(05)70270-X. PMID 16253889.
  3. Fleming DM, Ayres JG (1988). "Diagnosis and patterns of incidence of influenza, influenza-like illness and the common cold in general practice". J R Coll Gen Pract. 38 (309): 159–62. PMC 1711327. PMID 3265157.

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