Beyond the Common Cold: Sinusitis | by
Your child has a runny nose and a cough. Is it a cold – or sinusitis?
“The most common symptoms of sinusitis, drainage from the nose and cough, are very similar to a cold,” says Arvin Rao, MD, an ear, nose and throat specialist with South Denver ENT & Allergy in Centennial. Other symptoms, including nasal congestion, irritability and headaches, may also mimic a cold.
If your child’s symptoms persist after a week or so, though, he may have acute bacterial sinusitis. Symptoms that last more than three months indicate chronic sinusitis. A child who has six or more bouts of sinusitis in a year also has chronic sinusitis, Dr. Rao says.
Help is Available
If your child’s nasal congestion, drainage and cough are getting worse instead of better after seven to 10 days, it’s “worth being evaluated by a physician,” Dr. Rao says. “Parents should also look for signs and symptoms of severe infections, including very foul-smelling drainage from the nose, high fevers, and swelling or redness around they eyes,” Dr. Rao says. “If those symptoms occur, a child should be seen as soon as possible.”
Children with chronic infection may need additional evaluation, which may include endoscopy (the use of a lighted scope to visualize the inside of the nose) and/or a CT scan of the head. “The most common problem is either that the anatomic openings of the sinuses are too narrow and don’t allow the infection to clear completely, or there’s something, such as allergies, causing inflammation in the nose,” Dr. Rao says.
Acute sinusitis is treated with oral antibiotics. Kids with a chronic infection may receive long-term antibiotics. Saline sinus irrigations can be helpful for children who have environmental allergies that contribute to sinusitis. Nasal and/or oral steroids may be used to decrease inflammation; oral decongestants may be helpful too.
Surgery can help children with blocked or narrowed sinuses. Removal of the adenoids, lymphatic tissue in the back of the nose, helps more than 50 percent of kids with chronic sinusitis, Dr. Rao says. Balloon dilation, which uses a tiny, surgical-balloon in open up the sinuses, is another option.
Parents who suspect their child has sinusitis should consult a board-certified ear, nose and throat specialist to determine the best course of action for their child.
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