Pediatric sinus infections (sinus infections in children) are sometimes be confused with other illnesses that present similar symptoms. However, a pediatric sinus infection is not an uncommon diagnosis for children and is typically easy to treat.
What is a Pediatric Sinus Infection?
A pediatric sinus infection (pediatric sinusitis) occurs when normal sinus mucus cannot drain and sits too long in the sinus, causing an infection.
What Are the Causes of Pediatric Sinus Infections?
A cold or viral infection is the most common event leading up to a pediatric sinus infection in children. However, any foreign materials put in the nose can lead to a nasal infection.
According to theAmerican Rhinologic Society, when an infection—such as a cold—begins, "the lining of the sinuses may become swollen, blocking the passage where normal sinus mucus drains." Inflammation (swelling) is a normal response to a pediatric sinus infection. The backed-up mucus can't get out. If the mucus sits too long, then the sinus may then become infected.
What Are the Symptoms of Pediatric Sinus Infections?
The symptoms of pediatric sinus infections are similar to symptoms of many other pediatric illnesses. These symptoms can include:
- A prolonged cold (usually more than ten days)
- Swelling around the eyes, facial pain, or facial pressure
- Headaches in older children
- Sore throat, coughing, congestion, or bad breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Yellow-green nasal drainage
How Are Pediatric Sinus Infections Diagnosed?
Pediatricians sometimes have difficulty diagnosing sinus infections in children because they often display similar or identical symptoms to those shown with other illnesses. For example, allergies and some viral infections will manifest symptoms like those presented with a pediatric sinus infection.
An ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialist can diagnose a pediatric sinus infection. The ENT will thoroughly examine your child and ask about health history to give an accurate diagnosis. Occasionally, special instruments or CT scans may be used to determine your child's sinus development, where the blockage is, and confirm a diagnosis.
These scans can also help the ENT determine factors that may increase your child's risks for pediatric sinus infections related to structural changes, immune system issues, etc.
Are Pediatric Sinus Infections Common?
A pediatric sinus infection is considered a common diagnosis. This diagnosis occurs most frequently after a child is diagnosed with an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI), such as the common cold or a sore throat. According toDr. Ramadan at Medscape, children have an average of six to eight URTIs per year. Between five and thirteen percent of URTIs are expected to develop a sinus infection as a secondary diagnosis.
How Are Pediatric Sinus Infections Treated?
Pediatric sinus infections are typically treated with antibiotics. In addition to antibiotics, a pediatric doctor might prescribe medications or recommend over-the-counter medications for a sinus infection to help decrease mucus (decongestants), thin mucus, reduce nasal swelling (steroid nasal sprays).
Typically, children will show signs of improvement within the first few days. Children may even appear "better" within the week but should continue to take medications as prescribed for as long as prescribed.
If your child has chronic pediatric sinus infections, your pediatrician or family doctor may refer you to a pediatric ENT specialist if you don't see one already.
Chronic infections last twelve weeks or more or when a child has four or more infections per year. The ENT specialist may recommend surgical treatment in rare cases when children have severe or persistent sinus infections even after medical treatment. The surgical procedure will likely involve the pediatric ENT specialist opening the natural drainage pathways and making the passages wider. Additionally, the pediatric ENT specialist may recommend the removal of adenoid tissue.
While pediatric sinus infections can sometimes be confused with other illnesses, they are not uncommon among children. Typically, pediatric sinus infections are treated successfully with antibiotics. In rare cases where this is not enough, surgery can be a safe and effective alternative.