Children's sinuses aren't completely developed, so they are at greater risk of developing sinusitis, an inflammation of the sinuses that is usually caused by a virus. The risk increases if they are in daycare or have a weakened immune system.
Sinusitis is harder to diagnose in kids because its symptoms may be the result of other conditions, such as a respiratory illness or allergy, which is why our multidisciplinary approach works best to help your family get answers. Your child's care team will want to know her medical history and will perform an exam to diagnose sinusitis and develop a care plan.
- Acute sinusitis - symptoms lasting for 4 weeks or less
- Chronic sinusitis - symptoms lasting longer than 3 months
Signs of sinusitis in children may include:
- A cold or other respiratory illness that was improving and then gets worse
- Nasal discharge lasting more than 10 days without improvement
- A high fever accompanied by nasal discharge that lasts for 3 days or longer
See a doctor if your child has:
- A temperature that is higher than 100.4° F
- Symptoms that are not helped by over-the-counter medications
- Symptoms that last more than 10 days
- Had several cases of sinusitis within the past year
Test and Diagnosis
Sinusitis is common in children and most often goes away on its own. But, if your child has a temperature higher than 100.4° F or his symptoms have lasted more than 10 days, see a doctor.
Your pediatrician will ask you about risk factors your child may have, such as suffering from hay fever or being in daycare. She also will want to know if your child has had more than four sinus infections in the past year.
- Shining a light in the nose to look for inflammation
- Looking for polyps in the nose
- “Tapping” the sinuses in search of infection
- A CT scan to get a closer look at sinus bones and tissues
- An MRI to rule out tumors or fungal infections
- Allergy tests
- Blood tests
- Nasal culture
- Ciliary function test
- Tests for cystic fibrosis
Prevention and Treatment
Most sinus infections in children occur because of colds. Because the cause is most often a virus, antibiotics aren't usually an appropriate treatment for sinusitis in kids. Sometimes, antibiotics can even make things worse. Side effects of antibiotics include nausea, diarrhea and rashes. Plus, the use of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance. Remember, most sinusitis cases go away on their own and do not require medical attention.
Preventing sinusitis is a lot like avoiding a cold. Take the following steps to avoid sinus infections.
- Don’t smoke around your child.
- Encourage your child to wash his hands, especially after going to the bathroom or playing with other kids.
- Make sure your child is up to date on her vaccinations.
- Make sure your child avoids contact with sick kids.
- Use a humidifier in your home.
Rest and the use of over-the-counter cold medications are often the best treatment for pediatric sinusitis. Always refer to the directions on cold medications, as some are not appropriate for younger children.
If your child has a fever higher than 100.4° F and symptoms last more than 10 days, or if he has chronic sinusitis, consult a physician. Your pediatrician can determine whether your child needs prescription medication or antibiotics.
How can I tell if my child has sinusitis?
Children’s sinuses don’t develop completely until they are in their late teens. That means kids are far more susceptible to sinusitis than adults. Common symptoms of sinusitis include:
- A worsening cold (or other respiratory illness) that seemed to be getting better
- Nasal discharge that lasts more than 10 days without improving
- Dark nasal discharge accompanied by a fever that lasts more than three days