Sinus & Allergy

Need to Know: Signs of Sinus Infections in Children

written by Becki Andrus
Signs Of Sinus Infection In Children

A head cold is a common occurrence in childhood, especially since children are exposed to illnesses at school and daycare. Most of the time, the symptoms include a runny nose, coughing, crankiness, and a sore throat. These head cold symptoms will usually subside within a week. But there are times when an upper respiratory infection can lead to a secondary sinus infection.

Symptoms of Pediatric Sinus Infections

The symptoms of a pediatric sinus infection can be difficult to diagnose since these symptoms are similar to other health conditions, such as allergies or a viral infection. As a parent, you can watch for a few specific symptoms to determine when it is time to talk to a doctor about treatment.

These are the most common symptoms that occur when a child has a sinus infection:

  • A head cold that lasts more than 10 to 14 days
  • Swelling in the face, around the eyes
  • Fatigue or irritability
  • Nasal drainage that is yellow or green in color
  • Thick nasal drainage lasting more than three days
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Bad breath

Head Cold vs. Sinusitis

How can you tell the difference between a head cold and sinusitis? Colds usually don’t last for more than 5 or 10 days. In the beginning, the nasal discharge is clear, and then it thickens up for a few days before becoming clear again. On the other hand, if a sinus infection develops, then the thick discharge will remain for more than just a few days.

In the first few days of the illness, it can be hard to tell the difference between a cold and a sinus infection. The key is to watch the progression of symptoms, then talk to a doctor for diagnosis if needed.

Other causes of sinusitis could include tooth infections, trauma to the nose, structural abnormalities in the nose, or foreign objects stuck in the nose.

Types of Sinus Infections

Most often, sinus infections occur after a head cold or allergy flare-up. These sinus problems can be classified into four categories:

  • Acute: Sinus infection symptoms last less than four weeks. Medical treatment helps to reduce the symptoms and improve the child’s comfort.
  • Subacute: Initially, treatment is not effective in providing relief from the sinus infection. Symptoms can last between 4 and 12 weeks.
  • Chronic: When a child has repeated infections, and it is necessary to visit the doctor multiple times for the same health concerns.
  • Recurrent Acute: When a child has more than four severe sinus infections per year, the diagnosis falls into this category.

ENT Diagnosis for Sinus Infections

An appointment with an ENT specialist is the best course of action if you suspect that your child is suffering from a sinus infection. During this visit, the ENT will complete a thorough examination and talk to you about the child’s medical history.

It is important to determine any factors that may be influencing the development of the sinus infection. Identifying the underlying cause gives the doctor information to ensure that the treatment will be effective. Contributing factors might include things such as allergies, structural changes, or a compromised immune system.

The doctor will use instruments to inspect the child’s ears, nose, and throat. It isn’t common to use x-rays or CT scans for imaging of the sinuses. Even though these diagnostic tests are used for adults, most doctors will only recommend imaging on an as-needed basis for young children (due to the concern of radiation safety).

Sinus Infection Treatments for Children

If a virus causes sinus issues, then there is nothing that can be done except rest and care at home. With time, the symptoms should subside on their own. But, if a bacterial infection has developed and the symptoms are severe, then an ENT might recommend treatment using antibiotics. When antibiotics are used, it is important to complete the full prescribed length of time, even if the child shows improvement within the first few days.

Also, it can be helpful to talk to the doctor about treatments to reduce the related symptoms that come with a sinus infection. For example, sinus pain and headaches can be treated by placing a warm washcloth over the child’s forehead or face. Over-the-counter children’s medication can be used to reduce the pain. Try using a cool-mist humidifier in the room to help the child feel more comfortable, especially at night.

Sometimes, nasal saline or steroid sprays can be used to provide short-term relief from the symptoms of a sinus infection. Other medications might be recommended if the sinus infections are linked to allergies or a different health condition.

In rare cases, surgery might be recommended if other minimally-invasive treatments don’t work. When children are under the age of 13, sometimes it can help to remove the adenoid tissue. Since this tissue is located behind the nose, it can contribute to the infection and cause a variety of similar symptoms: stuffy nose, post-nasal drip, coughing, bad breath, and more.

Tips for Preventing Sinus Infections

Sinus infections develop when the nasal drainage is blocked or as a complication from a head cold or allergies. If you know that your child is prone to sinus infections, then there are a few things that can be done to prevent infections in the future.

  • Avoid second-hand smoke exposure since tobacco smoke can increase the risk of respiratory infections.
  • Use a cool-mist humidifier at home
  • Be consistent with the use of prescribed allergy medications
  • Avoid viral infections with good hygiene, such as regular hand washing

Talk to an Experienced ENT

Is it time to talk to a doctor about your child’s symptoms? If you suspect that your child has a sinus infection, then don’t delay an appointment with an ENT. Our team is here to provide the medical support that is needed to maintain health for the whole family.

If you are in the Denton or Dallas area and you are looking for an ENT, then call Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat. We have offices conveniently located in Frisco or Plano, TX. Contact us to schedule an appointment: (972) 596-4005

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