Sinusitis or sinus infection in kids is common at any age and is usually accompanied by a cold or allergy. The sinuses are air-filled spaces in the facial bones of the skull around the nose and are lined by a moist tissue called the mucous membrane, which protects the nose from pollution and microorganisms. When infected, this tissue lining becomes swollen and inflamed.
Read this post to learn more about the different types of sinuses and sinusitis, the causes and symptoms of sinusitis, and the available treatment options for children.
Types Of Sinuses
The nose consists of four types of paranasal sinuses, which produce the mucus that helps keep the insides of the nose moist and protects us from pollution and microorganisms.
The four types of sinuses include:
- Ethmoid sinus: This sinus is present in the area around the nose’s bridge and is located inside the face. It is present at the time of birth and grows continuously.
- Frontal sinus: The frontal sinus develops around the age of seven and is located in the area of the forehead.
- Maxillary sinus: This is another sinus present during birth and grows continuously. The maxillary sinus is present around the cheeks.
- Sphenoid sinus: The sphenoid sinus is located deep inside the face and behind the nose and develops during adolescence (1).
Next, let us discuss the types of sinus infections in children.
Types Of Sinus Infections
- Acute: This is a short-term sinus infection that lasts up to one month and gets better with appropriate treatment.
- Chronic: Chronic sinusitis could result from repeated acute infections or inappropriately treated previous infections. It is known to last for more than three months.
- Subacute: This infection may not get better with initial treatment and can last for one to three months.
- Recurrent: If your child has sinus infections several times a year, it could be a recurrent sinus infection. This could be due to allergies or anatomical abnormalities, such as deviated septum, concha bullosa, and enlarged adenoids.
So, why do some children have sinusitis? Read the next section to find out.
Causes For Sinusitis In Children
- Genetics: Studies suggest that children who have a family history of sinusitis are at a higher risk of developing sinus infections. A recent study has revealed that children whose families had a history of sinusitis are 57.5 times more prone to develop sinus infections than others. First cousins have nine times the increased risk, and second cousins have 2.9 times the increased risk of pediatric chronic sinusitis.
Genetic diseases, such as primary immunodeficiencies and cystic fibrosis, might also cause sinus infections in kids.
- Allergies: Allergies are known to be a contributing factor for chronic sinusitis. Allergies cause swelling of the nasal tissue and increase mucus production, leading to inflammation and swelling of the sinuses.
- Infections: Bacterial and viral infections also cause sinusitis in children. An ostial obstruction causes mucus and fluids to seep into the sinuses, making them the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses and leading to sinusitis.
Symptoms Of Sinusitis In Children
Some common symptoms of sinuses in children include (3):
- Upper airway infection that persists beyond seven to ten days
- Runny nose
- Facial pain or pressure
- Nasal stuffiness
- Loss of smell
- Bad breath
- Inflammation of the ear
- Feeling of something dripping in the back of throat (postnasal drip)
In the case of chronic infections, the symptoms may include:
- Pus discharge from the nose
- High fever
- Puffy eyes
Who Are At Risk Of Developing Sinus Infections?
Children of any age can develop sinus infections. The following factors might lead to the blockage of secretions out of the sinuses, increasing the risk of developing sinusitis (3).
- Anatomic abnormalities, such as enlarged adenoids or deviated nasal septum
- Nasal polyps
- Unattended nasal foreign bodies
- Prolonged ventilation
- Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
- Nasal tumors
- Active or passive smoking (in the case of teenagers)
- Environmental pollutants
- Periodontitis or a significant dental disease involving the upper teeth
Diagnosis Of Sinusitis In Children
The diagnosis of sinusitis may not be easy as the early symptoms might be confused with the common cold or a dental, ear, or eye problem. Here are a few diagnostic tests that might help in determining sinus infection in children (3).
- Transillumination of sinuses. In this test, a flashlight is placed against the child’s cheeks, and the doctor examines the inside of the child’s mouth. If the sinuses are fluid-filled and inflamed, the palatal area does not appear red. A camera is used to capture and record images.
- Other tests such as sinus X-rays, sinus cultures, anterior rhinoscopy, and nasal endoscopy may also help diagnose the infection.
Treatment Of Sinusitis In Children
Acute sinus infections
Acute sinus infections usually get cleared with minimal intervention. The treatment options include:
- Steam inhalation
- Adequate hydration
- Use of topical decongestants
- Applying warm facial packs
- Using saline drops
- Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if the symptoms are severe and the above treatments do not offer relief. Some preferred antibiotics include amoxicillin, co-amoxiclav, and oral cephalosporins.
- If the sinusitis is due to allergies, the doctor might prescribe antihistamines or determine the triggering substance and advice the child to stay away from it.
- In the case of GERD-induced sinusitis, the doctor might recommend elevating the head end of the bed; taking smaller, frequent, and thickened feeds; and avoiding near-bedtime feeds.
Note: Do not use over-the-counter medications and decongestant nasal sprays without checking with your child’s healthcare provider.
The treatment for chronic sinusitis is similar to that of acute sinusitis, but the duration of treatment or dosage of antibiotics might be increased.
- Your child’s doctor might prescribe antibiotic use for a longer time.
- Inhaled corticosteroids may be given through nasal sprays.
- Adenoidectomy, which is a surgery to remove adenoids, may be prescribed.
- In some chronic cases, sinus surgery is performed to make an incision in the sinuses to drain the liquid.
Recurrent sinusitis is generally treated with antibiotics and allergy medicines.
Prevention Of Sinusitis In Children
Take the following precautions to prevent sinusitis in your children.
- Consult your child’s doctor and have your child use saline sprays, washes, or both to keep the nose area as moist as possible.
- If you live in a dry environment, consider using a humidifier.
- Identify the allergy-causing agents and keep your child away from them.
- Protect your child from passive smoking.
- Teach them the importance of personal hygiene.
- Prevent your child from contacting people with cold or upper respiratory infections (4).
A few home remedies may help alleviate the symptoms to some extent. However, as most of these remedies lack scientific backing, it is best to consult your doctor before trying these remedies.
Home Remedies For Sinusitis In Children
Along with your doctor’s prescribed treatment, you can try some of these home remedies to relieve some symptoms of sinus infection in children.
- If your child experiences nasal congestion and airway blockage, give them a warm shower or bath. This might help clear the airways.
- Eucalyptus oil is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and relieve the symptoms of allergic sinusitis. Put a drop or two of eucalyptus oil on a cotton ball and ask your child to inhale it two to three times. Do not forget to do a patch test to determine if your child is allergic to eucalyptus oil (5).
- Studies suggest that nasal irrigation is an effective adjunctive treatment for acute sinusitis in children. Teach your child to rinse their nasal passages with sterilized saltwater to force out germs and plugged mucus (6).
- According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, sinus rinse may help relieve chronic sinus symptoms. You can either buy the saline solution from drugstores or make one yourself. Mix three teaspoons of iodide-free salt with one teaspoon of baking soda, add one cup of lukewarm distilled water, and mix thoroughly (7).
- Studies have found that vitamins E (sunflower seeds, almonds, pumpkin, peanut butter, etc.) and C (citrus fruits, tomatoes, and potato) might help reduce the inflammation of the sinuses due to allergies. So, include foods rich in these vitamins to relieve the symptoms of sinus and boost their immunity (8).
Sinusitis is a common infection in children. Acute sinusitis can be cured with some home remedies. However, severe and chronic cases need medical intervention as they may cause airway blockage. If your child suffers from repeated episodes of sinus infections, it is best to consult your doctor to understand the underlying reason.
2. Dana T. Badr, Jonathan M. Gaffin, and Wanda Phipatanakul.; Pediatric Rhinosinusitis; HHS Author Manuscripts (2017).
3. Sukhbir K. Shahid; Rhinosinusitis in Children; ISRN Otolaryngology (2012).
4. Sinusitis in Children; Stanford Children’s Health
5. Seo Yeon Choi and Kyungsook Park; Effect of Inhalation of Aromatherapy Oil on Patients with Perennial Allergic Rhinitis: A Randomized Controlled Trial; Evid Based Complement Alternat Med (2016).
6. Yun-Hu Wang, et al.; Efficacy of nasal irrigation in the treatment of acute sinusitis in atopic children; Journal of Microbiology, Immunology, and Infection (2014).
7. Saline Sinus Rinse Recipe; American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology
8. Geetendra Singh Dhanawat; Rhinitis, sinusitis and ocular disease – 2100. New approach to treat allergic rhinitis with Vitamin E, cod liver oil and Vitamin C with use of nasal steroidal spray; World Allergy Organization Journal (2013).
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