Watch out for sinusitis symptoms that show your child has more than a cold

Your child is having a cold. In most cases, the cold will run its course and clear up in a matter of days. But what if the cold persists for more than 10 days? Or your child starts producing a pus-like, yellowish-greenish nasal discharge and becomes sensitive to touch on the face and cheeks? These could be symptoms of something more serious - sinusitis.

Sinusitis often begins with a cold

Sinusitis – an inflammation of the sinuses - happens in 5% of children with flu, according to Associate Professor Henry Tan, Senior Consultant and Head of Otolaryngology at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth​ group.

“Many upper respiratory tract infections such as viral or​ bacterial sinusitis begin with the common cold and flu, and parents should be alert if symptoms don’t go away after 7 to 10 days,” says A/Professor Tan.

Viral vs bacterial sinusitis

Viral sinusitis usually lasts no more than 10 days, but bacterial sinusitis can last up to four weeks and for chronic cases, up to months and years.

Look out for tenderness in the sinus areas; swelling in the eyes; redness on the eyelids; pain near the eyes, nose and cheeks. These are symptoms of bacterial sinusitis.They may cause great discomfort, making a child highly irritable.

Bacterial sinusitis may also spread to the brain and cause meningitis, but this is extremely rare.

Sinuses - what are they?

Sinuses are cavities in the bones around your nose, behind and between the eyes, on the forehead, and at the back of the nasal cavity. They make our heads feel lighter and serve an important function: the mucus membranes lining the sinuses moisten and trap the dirt and dust in the air that you breathe in.

When a child catches a cold that refuses to go away after five to seven days, sinuses are blocked, muscus builds up, and undrained mucus may become infected with bacteria, causing bacterial sinusitis.

Symptoms of bacterial sinusitis

Look out for bacterial sinusitis symptoms:

  1. Cold that worsens instead of improving after 7 to 10 days
  2. Fever (over 38 degrees Celsius) for at least three days
  3. Thick, yellowish-green nasal discharge for more than 10 days
  4. Nasal congestion
  5. Pain or tenderness in the sinus areas (around the nose, eyes, cheeks, forehead)
  6. Swollen eyes, red eyelids
  7. High irritability

Treatment for sinusitis

Treatment for sinusitis is simple:

  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and water or fluids. Antibiotics are only necessary for bacterial sinusitis.
  • To ease your child’s nasal discomfort, ask the doctor for a nasal spray.

Sinusitis prevention tips

Tips to prevent sinusitis in children:

  1. Minimise your child’s contact with people who have colds.
  2. Develop good hand hygiene.
  3. Don’t let the common cold get worse.
  4. Keep allergens away from your child (e.g. pollen, mold, pet dander).
  5. Strengthen your child’s immune system.

The next time your child catches a cold, check for sinusitis symptoms. “As a precaution, vaccinations against flu and bacterial infections are now available for children,” says A/Professor Tan.

Ref: U11