Sinuses are moist air spaces within the bones of the face around the nose. When they become infected and swell or become irritated, this is called sinusitis (or a sinus infection). These infections usually follow colds or bouts with allergies. Sinusitis is common and easily treated.
The sinuses are four sets of hollow spaces that are located in the cheekbones (maxillary sinus), the forehead (frontal sinus), behind the nasal passages (ethmoid sinus), and deep in the brain behind the nasal passages (sphenoid sinus). Sinuses are lined with the same mucous membranes that line the nose and mouth.
When someone has a cold or allergies and the nasal passages become swollen and make more mucus, so do the sinus tissues. The drainage system for the sinuses can get blocked, and mucus can become trapped in the sinuses. Bacteria, viruses, and fungi can grow there and lead to sinusitis.
Sinusitis can cause different symptoms for kids of varying ages.
Younger kids often have cold-like symptoms, including a stuffy or runny nose and slight fever. If your child develops a fever 5-7 days after cold symptoms begin, it could signal sinusitis or another infection (like bronchitis, pneumonia, or an ear infection), so call your doctor.
Many parents mistake cold-related headaches in young kids for sinus infections. But the sinuses in the forehead don't start developing until kids are 6 or 7 years old and aren't formed enough to get infected until the early teen years. So headaches in kids who have colds usually aren't sinus infections.
In older kids and teens, the most common sinusitis symptoms are a cough that doesn't improve after the first 7 days of cold symptoms, fever, worsening congestion, foul breath, dental pain, ear pain, or tenderness in the face. Sometimes, teens who have sinusitis also develop upset stomachs, nausea, headaches, and pain behind the eyes.
Simple changes in your lifestyle or home environment can help lower the risk of sinusitis. For example, during the winter, when your heating system makes the air inside your home abnormally dry, consider using a humidifier to keep home humidity at 45%-50%. This will stop dry air from irritating the sinuses and make them less of a target for infection. It's important to clean your humidifier regularly to prevent mold growth.
Although sinusitis itself is not contagious, it is often preceded by a cold, which can spread easily, particularly among family or friends. The most effective way to prevent spreading germs is to teach your family the importance of frequent hand washing, particularly when they're sick.
Doctors may prescribe oral antibiotics to treat cases of sinusitis thought to be caused by bacteria. Some doctors may recommend decongestants and antihistamines to help ease symptoms.
Sinusitis caused by a virus usually goes away without medical treatment. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and/or warm compresses can help reduce any pain. But over-the-counter cold preparations have not been found to be effective in reducing symptoms and may cause unwanted side effects.
Call the doctor whenever your child has:
Also call the doctor if your child shows any other signs of sinusitis, like pain or stiffness in the cheeks, a fever, or a cold that seems worse than usual.
Reviewed by: Nicole A. Green, MD
Date reviewed: April 2013
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.|
|Seasonal Allergies (Hay Fever) At various times of the year, pollen and mold spores trigger the cold-like symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. Most kids find relief through reduced exposure to allergens or with medications.|
|The Danger of Antibiotic Overuse When you bring your child to the doctor for a cold or flu, do you automatically expect a prescription for antibiotics? Here's why taking antibiotics too often or for the wrong reason can do more harm than good.|
|Allergies Your eyes itch, your nose is running, you're sneezing, and you're covered in hives. The enemy known as allergies has struck again.|
|Sinusitis If you've been waking up with headaches, feeling stuffy or congested, and experiencing swelling around your eyes, you may have sinusitis - an infection of the sinus air spaces found in the bones around the nose.|
|Learning About Allergies During an allergic reaction, your body's immune system goes into overdrive. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Can Kids Get Allergies All Year? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Environmental Control Measures Families of kids with allergies should use environmental control measures that reduce exposure to the child's allergy triggers. Here's how to begin.|
|When Sinuses Attack! Sinuses are hollow spaces in your head that can fill with mucus when you're all stuffed up. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Coping With Colds Most teens get between two and four colds each year. Read this article for the facts on chicken soup, cold medicines, and other ways to feel better.|
|Allergy Testing Doctors use several different types of allergy tests, depending on what a person may be allergic to. Find out what to expect from allergy tests.|
|Common Cold With kids getting up to eight colds a year, this contagious viral infection is the most common infectious disease in the United States and the top reason kids visit the doctor and miss school.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.