How Serious Is the Rhinovirus?

Reviewed on 11/3/2021

The common cold is most frequently caused by a rhinovirus. Rhinovirus infections typically cause mild upper respiratory tract illness that goes away on its own within 1 to 2 weeks. While some people with a rhinovirus infection may not have any symptoms at all, others may have serious symptoms such as obliterative bronchiolitis and pneumonia.
The common cold is most frequently caused by a rhinovirus. Rhinovirus infections typically cause mild upper respiratory tract illness that goes away on its own within 1 to 2 weeks. While some people with a rhinovirus infection may not have any symptoms at all, others may have serious symptoms such as obliterative bronchiolitis and pneumonia.

Rhinoviruses are the most frequent cause of the common cold, and rhinovirus infections are usually associated with a mild upper respiratory tract illness that goes away on its own within 1 to 2 weeks.

Rhinovirus infection may not cause any symptoms in some people, and in others it can be responsible for severe lower respiratory tract illness such as obliterative bronchiolitis and pneumonia.

Rhinovirus infection may cause symptoms such as:

  • Runny nose
  • Sore or scratchy throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Cough, including coughing up phlegm 
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Inflammation of the mucus membranes inside the nose (coryza)
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Hoarseness
  • Facial pressure
  • Ear fullness
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Feeling unwell (malaise)
  • Interference with normal activities 
  • Confusion/disorientation

What Causes Rhinovirus Infection?

  • Rhinoviruses are found in nasal secretions for five to seven days, but may persist as long as two to three weeks in the upper part of the throat behind the nose (nasopharynx).  
  • The virus is transmitted from person-to-person when an infected individual coughs or sneezes, by close personal contact with an infected person, and by touching contaminated surfaces and objects. The virus is able to survive on surfaces for several hours.

How Is Rhinovirus Infection Diagnosed?

  • A diagnosis of rhinovirus infection is usually made clinically, based on signs and symptoms. This is because a specific diagnosis of a rhinovirus infection requires use of culture methods that take several days to yield results, which would thus not be available during the acute phase of the infection. 
  • Blood tests are generally not used because there are so many different types of rhinoviruses.

What Is the Treatment for Rhinovirus Infection?

Treatment for rhinovirus infection is aimed at relief of symptoms, and home care is often all that is needed. Treatment for rhinovirus infection may include: 

  • Rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Use a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer
  • Use saline nasal spray or drops
  • Breathe in steam from a bowl of hot water or shower
  • Suck on lozenges (do not give lozenges to young children as they can be a choking hazard)
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for relief of symptoms 
  • Some supplements have been reported helps speed recovery from the common cold, but studies have failed to provide evidence of benefit

What Are Complications of Rhinovirus Infection?

People with weakened immune systems, asthma, or respiratory conditions may be more prone to serious illness and complications of rhinovirus infections, such as: 


 

How Do You Prevent Rhinovirus Infection?

To help prevent rhinovirus infection:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Stay away from people who are sick
  • Stay home if you are sick 
  • Move away from people before coughing or sneezing
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue then throw it away immediately, or cough and sneeze into your upper shirt sleeve, completely covering your mouth and nose
  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs, mobile phones, and toys

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Reviewed on 11/3/2021
References
Image Source: iStock Images

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/215084

https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/44/1/169

https://www.cdc.gov/features/rhinoviruses/

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/the-common-cold-in-adults-diagnosis-and-clinical-features?search=common%20cold&source=search_result&selectedTitle=2~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=2#H11414528