Nasal Polyposis In Children: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment And Prevention

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Nasal polyps in children are rare. These teardrop-shaped, painless, soft growths of inflamed tissue may emerge in the nasal lining or the sinuses (1). They can be singular or grow in clusters, called nasal polyposis. If nasal polyps are left untreated, they may grow and block the nasal passages or sinuses.

Nasal polyps are usually not serious, but a blockage due to polyps can obstruct airflow, make breathing difficult, and lead to sinusitis. If children experience nasal polyps, prompt diagnosis and treatment can help relieve the symptoms with minimal intervention.

Read this post to learn about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for nasal polyposis in children.

Signs And Symptoms Of Nasal Polyps In Children

Nasal polyps are the most common type of nasal mass (abnormal growth in the nose) and may lead to the following symptoms (2) (3).

  • Blocked nose
  • Runny nose and/or sneezing
  • Headaches
  • Formation of thick fluid in the nose and throat (catarrh)
  • Decreased sense of smell and taste
  • Mucus constantly flowing down from the nose to the back of the throat (postnasal drip)
  • Nosebleeds
  • Snoring

Visit a pediatric ENT specialist promptly if your child has any of these or other cold-like symptoms for more than 14 days.

Possible Causes Of Nasal Polyps In Children

The exact cause of nasal polyp development is unknown. Chronic inflammation of the nose and sinus due to bacterial infections may often lead to nasal polyps. Experts suggest that nasal polyps are more likely to occur in individuals with (1) (4):

  • Asthma

According to the NHS, UK, nasal polyps are rare in children (3). However, when they are present, they can be benign or malignant (5). Thus, their timely detection is essential, especially because not all growths in the nose are polyps (1).

Diagnosis Of Nasal Polyps In Children

Noting the child’s symptoms and medical and family history is the first step to diagnosing nasal polyps in children. After that, the doctor will perform a physical examination using a lighted tool with a camera called the nasal endoscope. This instrument will help the doctor see the inside of the nose and sinus cavities on a screen.

If the healthcare provider has any suspicions, they could order additional diagnostic tests, such as a CT scan and blood and allergy test. These tests will help the doctor know if any nutritional deficiencies or inflammation is causing the polyps. Polyp biopsy is another test that the doctor may order to know if the polyps are cancerous (6).

Treatment Of Nasal Polyps In Children

Treatment of nasal polyps in children depends on the child’s symptoms, age, and overall health. Here’s the likely course of treatment for nasal polyps (3) (7).

  1. Nasal drops and sprays: These medicines help shrink the polyps and prevent them from blocking the airway. The doctor may also likely prescribe medicines to reduce inflammation. If nasal sprays and drops don’t work, the doctor may prescribe steroid tablets. These tablets are usually given for up to two weeks, during which the doctor will monitor the growth of the polyps. Antibiotics and antihistamines may also be prescribed if there is a nasal or sinus infection and allergic reaction.
  1. Surgery: If a child’s symptoms don’t improve even after ten weeks of treatment, the doctor may advise surgical removal of polyps from the nose or sinus (endoscopic sinus surgery). Removal of polyps can offer relief, but they often regrow after some years. The doctor may advise you to use nasal steroid spray to prevent the polyps from returning quickly.

If a child has a nasal or sinus tumor or has any other complex medical condition, such as cystic fibrosis, the treatment will work on its resolution.

Possible Complications Of Nasal Polyps

The most common complication of nasal polyps is a bacterial infection in the nasal passage or sinuses. These infections can get treated but may come back often and become chronic, such as chronic sinusitis. In rare cases, the infection can turn severe, increasing the risk of the following conditions (6).

  • Meningitis: Infection in the tissues around the brain and spinal cord
  • Orbital cellulitis: Infections in the tissues around the eye
  • Osteitis: Infections of the sinus bones

If polyps grow too large, they can block the airway and cause brief pauses in breathing during sleep (obstructive sleep apnea). In such cases, surgery is the most plausible treatment for relief.

Prevention Of Nasal Polyps In Children

The cause for nasal polyps is unknown. Therefore, prevention may not be possible. Children with treated nasal polyps must follow the prescribed medication course to keep polyp regrowth under check. You may also observe the following practices for the general good health of the upper respiratory passages.

  • Practice good nasal hygiene.
  • Use cool-mist humidifiers to keep the airways moistened.
  • Avoid exposure to airborne allergens or irritants that can irritate nasal cavity(allergic rhinitis) and cause sinus inflammation.

Nasal polyps are soft growths, which are usually non-cancerous and cause no health issues. However, if the polyps grow too big, they can obstruct the airways or sinuses. In such cases, prompt treatment is necessary to avoid any discomfort and complications. Your child’s doctor can suggest the best treatment modality based on the child’s symptoms, age, and overall health.


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Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different organizations. Her interest in scientific writing... more