Sinus Infections in Children

Symptoms of a sinus infection in children include nasal congestion, postnasal drip, and cough. Anything that causes swelling in the nose can increase your child's risk, such as allergies, sudden changes in pressure, or a viral upper respiratory infection. In uncomplicated cases, the infection may improve with nasal irrigation or acetaminophen; in more serious cases, antibiotics may be necessary.

Understanding Childhood Sinus Infections

Sinusitis is a medical term used to describe inflammation (swelling and irritation) of one or more of the sinuses. It is a common illness in both children and adults.
Most sinus infections are caused by a virus. This is known as acute viral sinusitis. Bacteria can also infect the sinuses, although this is less common. Bacteria cause up to 13 percent of acute sinus infections in children.
Because infections are the main cause of sinusitis, the terms "sinusitis" and "sinus infection" are often used interchangeably.

What Are Sinuses?

The paranasal sinuses are hollow air spaces located within the skull. They include the frontal, maxillary, ethmoid, and sphenoid sinuses. These sinuses connect to the nasal passages through an opening that allows movement of air and mucus in between the nose and sinuses.
It can take up to 20 years for the paranasal sinuses to completely develop. However, in most children, by age 12, the sinuses are almost completely developed and have reached adult proportions.

Types of Sinusitis in Children

There are a couple of different types of sinusitis. Each type is based on how long symptoms last and what has caused the condition.
Different types of sinusitis include:
  • Acute sinusitis: Diagnosed when symptoms have lasted for fewer than four weeks. There are two different subtypes:
    • Acute viral sinusitis, which is caused by a virus
    • Acute bacterial sinusitis, which is caused by bacteria.
  • Subacute sinusitis: Symptoms lasting for 4 to 12 weeks.
  • Chronic sinusitis: Symptoms lasting 12 weeks or longer, despite medical treatment.
  • Recurrent sinusitis: More than three episodes of acute sinusitis separated by at least 10 days of no symptoms in a six-month period; or more than four episodes of acute sinusitis separated by at least 10 days of no symptoms in a 12-month period.
Written by/reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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