Nasal Polyps In Children: Signs, Causes, Risks, And Treatment

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Nasal polyps in children are rare. According to a study by multiple researchers, the estimated incidence rate of nasal polyps is 0.1 percent among children. These teardrop-shaped, painless, soft polypoidal 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 left untreated, nasal polyps 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.

In This Article

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
  • Formation of thick fluid in the nose and throat (catarrh)
  • Decreased sense of smell or taste
  • Mucus constantly flowing down from the nose to the back of the throat (postnasal drip)
  • Nosebleeds
  • Snoring
protip_icon Be watchful
Other common symptoms of nasal polyps may also include pain in the face or upper teeth, cough, and pressure around the sinuses (10).
Nasal polyps in children can cause snoring

Image: Shutterstock

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 nose and sinus inflammation 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
Asthma can cause nasal polyps in children

Image: Shutterstock

  • Cystic fibrosis

protip_icon Quick fact
Nasal polyps may be the indicators of systemic diseases such as immunodeficiencies (a condition that affects the immune system) and primary ciliary dyskinesia (a condition that affects the structure or function of cilia) in children (11) (12) (13).

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

MRI helps diagnose nasal polyps in children

Image: Shutterstock

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 prescribe medicines to reduce inflammation. If nasal sprays and drops don’t work, the doctor may prescribe steroid tablets, usually given for up to two weeks. Antibiotics and antihistamines may also be prescribed if there is a nasal or sinus infection and allergic reaction.
Your doctor may prescribe nasal drops to manage nasal polyps

Image: Shutterstock

  1. Surgery: If a child’s symptoms do not improve after a ten-week treatment, an otolaryngology specialist may suggest endoscopic sinus surgery to remove polyps from the nose or sinus. Removal of polyps can offer relief, but they can 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 in 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, leading to breathing difficulties during sleep (obstructive sleep apnea). In such cases, surgery is the most plausible treatment for relief.

Prevention Of Nasal Polyps In Children

Cool mist humidifiers are useful in preventing nasal polyps

Image: Shutterstock

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 the nasal cavity (allergic rhinitis) and cause sinus inflammation, nasal congestion, and allergies.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Will nasal polyps in children go away on their own?

No, nasal polyps do not go away on their own and need proper treatment. However, small nasal polyps do not cause any problems and can remain untreated, but larger ones should be treated to prevent further complications (8).

2. At what age do nasal polyps develop in children?

Nasal polyps in children commonly develop in the teenage years and may be associated with bronchial asthma (9).

Nasal polyps are soft growths, which are usually non-cancerous and cause no health issues. However, if the polyp growth increases and the polyps grow too big, they can obstruct the airways or sinuses and even cause infections. 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.

Key Pointers

  • Nasal polyps can cause nasal obstruction, headaches, and a diminished sense of smell and taste in children.
  • Although nasal polyps are uncommon in children, early identification is necessary since they can be benign or malignant.
  • An ENT specialist will use a nasal endoscope to detect nasal polyps in children.
  • Depending on the child’s symptoms, age, and overall health, nasal drops, sprays, or surgical treatment will be recommended.

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Nasal Polyps.
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/nasal-polyps-a-to-z
  2. Nasal polyps.
    https://www.entuk.org/nasal-polyps
  3. Nasal polyps.
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/nasal-polyps/
  4. Nasal polyps.
    https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/health-a-z/n/nasal-polyps/
  5. V.L. Schramm Jr. and M.Z. Effron Nasal polyps in children.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7401851/
  6. Nasal Polyps.
    https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/n/nasal-polyps.html
  7. Sinusitis and Nasal Polyps in Children.
    https://www.dukehealth.org/treatments/pediatric-otolaryngology/sinusitis-children
  8. Nasal Polyps.
    https://gaapp.org/diseases/eosinophil-driven-diseases/nasal-polyps/
  9. N Segal et al.; (2012); Nasal polyps in the pediatric population.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23409555/
  10. Nasal Polyps
    https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/nasal-polyps
  11. Primary Immunodeficiency disorders
    https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions/primary-immunodeficiency#:~:text=is%20primary%20immunodeficiency%3F-Primary%20immunodeficiency%20disorders%20(PIDDs)%20are%20a%20group%20of%20inherited%20conditionsT%20lymphocytes%20or%20B%20lymphocytes.
  12. Pediatric Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD)
    https://www.uncchildrens.org/uncmc/unc-childrens/care-treatment/pulmonary-care/pcd/#:~:text=Primary%20ciliary%20dyskinesia%20is%20arespiratory%20infections%20and%20lung%20damage.
  13. Maria E. Di Cicco et al.; (2021); Nasal Polyps in Children: The Early Origins of a Challenging Adulthood Condition.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8620101/#B2-children-08-00997
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Dr. Maria Katrina Florcruz is a board-certified pediatrician and a Diplomate of the Philippine Pediatric Society with over 14 years of experience. She is an active consultant at Diliman Doctors Hospital and a visiting consultant at The Medical City and Capitol Medical Center.

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Swati Patwal
Swati PatwalM.Sc. (Food & Nutrition), MBA
Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a toddler mom with more than a decade 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.

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Rohit Garoo
Rohit GarooBSc, MBA
Rohit Garoo is a writer-turned-editor with over 9 years of experience in content writing, editing, and content marketing. He did his bachelors in Science at St. Xavier's College, Hyderabad, and masters in Business Administration at Osmania University.

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Dr. Joyani Das
Dr. Joyani DasM.Pharm, PhD
Dr. Joyani Das did her post-graduation from Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra and PhD in Pharmacology. Previously, she worked as an associate professor, faculty of Pharmacology, for two years. With her research background in preclinical studies and a zeal for scientific writing, she joined MomJunction as a health writer.

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