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Sinusitis, more commonly known as a sinus infection, can be a painful and annoying illness for your child.

It can also be a rather difficult condition for parents to diagnose on their own as viral infections and allergies can present similarly. Colds (aka Viral Upper Respiratory Infections or URIs) and sinus infections will be common for your child during his or her first few years as they are more susceptible.  Parents should familiarize themselves with how to differentiate between the two, as well as treatments methods at home to prevent the spread of infection.

How Does Sinusitis Start?

Sinuses are tiny cavities within your skull that are filled with air and mucus to keep nasal passages clear of foreign bodies.  They perform an important function for filtering out dust, pollen, and allergens that may not belong in your respiratory system.  A child's sinuses, however, are not fully developed until their early teens.

How To Tell The Difference Between Sinusitis and Common Colds

Sometimes the symptoms of a sinus infection will mirror the symptoms of the common cold so closely that it may be difficult for parents to determine the difference.  Common symptoms of sinusitis include:

  • Facial pressure and pain

  • Thick, discolored mucus (although a virus can cause this as well)
  • Nasal congestion

Infection of most kinds causes inflammation and swelling along with congestion, drainage, and mucus.  These can lead to pressure and pain. The most important feature to diagnose sinusitis is timing. If you child's condition lasts longer than 10-14 days without much improvement, it may be a sign that he or she has developed an infection that may need antibiotics.  Sinus infections usually begin as colds that worse as conditions for an infection become more ideal. Your child's pediatrician may use a lighted microscope to inspect the nasal passages looking for inflammation and other signs of an infection.

What Are The Two Types Of Sinusitis?

Your child's sinusitis will fall into one of these two categories.  Identifying a cause for the sinusitis is important to determining the most effective treatment method.

Acute Sinusitis

  • Duration:  Typically lasts up to 4 weeks
  • Treatment:  Antibiotics may be needed, although most can recover without any
  • Cause:  Viral or bacterial infections

Chronic Sinusitis

  • Duration: Typically lasts 8 weeks or longer
  • Treatment:  Antibiotics usually recommended
  • Cause: Respiratory tract infection (viral, bacterial or fungal), allergies, or nasal growths

How To Treat Sinusitis/Sinus Infections

Treating sinus infections can be done from home with a combination or medication, rest, and other self care techniques to make your child more comfortable.  The goal of treatment for sinus infections should be to:

  • Reduce swelling
  • Improve drainage
  • Remove infection
  • Prevent tissue damage
  • Eliminate pain
  • Relieve pressure

It is important to narrow down the cause of your child's sinus infection in order to identify the most effective treatment method.  Always check with your child's doctor before giving them any medications. Steam therapy (humidifier), saline sprays and rinses as well as heat can also help ease the discomfort of sinus pressure.

If you need further help in identifying the symptoms of a sinus infection, be sure to contact your child's pediatrician!

Sarah Broadhead, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic 192Dodge Pediatrics

As a little girl, Dr. Sarah Broadhead wanted to grow up to be "just like my favorite aunt 'Dr. Deb.'" As a pediatrician, Dr. Broadhead ('Dr. Sarah') is excited to share in fun milestones as well as hard decisions.  She feels that the parent, child-patient and doctor are a 3-way team and trust is important. "I want them to trust in my judgment and experience and I trust that the parent knows that little girl or boy best." Dr. Broadhead explains: "Kids are amazi ...

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