Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses. Your child’s sinuses are behind his cheeks, forehead and eyes. They are hollow passages that are designed to “pre-treat” the air we breathe to make it healthier and easier to breathe. Sinus infections occur when bacteria build up in the sinuses after a cold or during allergies. Acute infections can last up to eight weeks and happen three times a year. Chronic infections occur more frequently and might be caused by allergies.
What causes sinusitis?
Sometimes the hollow passages in the skull, called sinuses, become filled with mucus during a cold or allergy in which bacteria can grow causing an infection. Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Moraxella catarrhalis are common bacterial causes of sinusitis. Sinusitis can also be caused by a fungal infection. Most cases of sinusitis follow a cold or other illnesses or conditions that causes nasal congestion.
Is sinusitis serious?
Sinusitis is usually not serious and may clear up on its own. Rare complications of severe infections can include infection of the bones and tissue surrounding the sinuses. In very rare cases, the infection can spread to the brain.
Can I prevent sinusitis?
You can prevent sinusitis by preventing the illnesses and conditions that precede it. Avoiding colds, treating allergies, and resolving dental issues can help you prevent getting sinus infections. Cigarette smoke can also aggravate sinuses, leading to sinusitis, so don’t smoke around your children.
How do I know if my child has sinusitis?
Sinusitis can be uncomfortable. Your child is likely to experience tenderness and pain in the facial areas covering the sinuses, including his cheeks and forehead. He may also have a fever. He will probably have a runny or stuffy nose with yellow or green mucus.
How do I treat sinusitis?
Mild cases of sinusitis can be treated with warm compresses, steam inhalation, and paracetamol for fever and pain. More severe cases of sinusitis and chronic sinusitis (sinusitis that occurs frequently) should be treated by a doctor. Your child may need antibiotics or other medications to treat severe sinusitis. Sinusitis may clear up on its own in a week or two, but might clear up faster with antibiotic treatment.
Should I call the doctor?
If your child has a swollen face, seizures, personality changes or vision problems, his sinus infection may have spread to the tissue and bones around the sinuses, or to his brain. This is a medical emergency and he will need to be treated by a doctor immediately to prevent serious complications.
What you need to know about sinusitis
- Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses, hollow cavities in the head.
- You can prevent sinusitis by preventing the illnesses and conditions that can cause it.
- Sinusitis is easily treated with antibiotics.
Find more relevant articles and information about sinusitis
- Learn more about bacterial infections
- Read more about strep throat infections
- Read more about the common cold
- Read more about fevers
Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand's parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health and Health Insite.
Last revised: Monday, 18 January 2010
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.