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

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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
  • 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

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
  • Cystic fibrosis

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 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 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.
  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 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 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

No, nasal polyps do not go away alone 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 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:

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Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a 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... more

Dr. Maria Katrina Florcruz

(MD, DPPS)
Dr. Maria Katrina Florcruz is a board-certified pediatrician and a Diplomate of the Philippine Pediatric Society. She is an active consultant at Diliman Doctors Hospital and a visiting consultant at The Medical City and Capitol Medical Center. Also an experienced health communications professional and content creator, Dr. Katrina was the content head for the medical media application Docquity, and a... more