Sinuses are moist air spaces within the bones of the face around the nose. When
they get 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 easy to treat.
What Causes Sinusitis?
The sinuses are four sets of hollow spaces located in the cheekbones, forehead,
between the eyes, and behind the eyes and nasal passages. 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. If they can't drain, the sinuses can get
blocked and mucus can become trapped in them. Germs
can grow there and lead to sinusitis.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Sinusitis?
Sinusitis can cause different symptoms.
Younger kids often have:
cold-like symptoms, including a stuffy or runny nose
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. Cold-related headaches in young kids usually
aren't sinus infections. That's because the sinuses in the forehead don't start developing
until kids are 9 or 12 years old and aren't formed enough to get infected until the
early teen years.
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
tenderness in the face
Sometimes, teens also have upset stomachs, nausea, headaches, and pain behind the
Can Sinusitis Be Prevented?
Simple changes in your lifestyle or home environment can help lower the risk of
sinusitis. For example, during the winter, use 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. Clean your humidifier often to prevent mold growth.
Is Sinusitis Contagious?
Sinusitis itself is not contagious. But it often follows a cold, which can spread
easily among family and friends. To prevent spreading germs, teach your family to
wash their hands well and often,
particularly when they're sick.
How Is Sinusitis Treated?
Doctors may prescribe oral antibiotics to treat sinusitis caused by
. Some doctors may recommend decongestants and antihistamines to help
Sinusitis caused by a
usually goes away without medical treatment. Acetaminophen,
ibuprofen, and/or warm compresses
can help reduce any pain. Over-the-counter saline solution (saltwater) is safe and
helps wash the nose and relieve many symptoms caused by allergies, viruses, and bacteria.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Call the doctor whenever your child has:
a cold that lasts for more than 7–10 days without improvement
a cold that seems to be getting worse after 7 days of symptoms
symptoms of allergies that don't clear with the usual allergy medicine
Also call if your child shows any other signs of worsening sinusitis, such as:
pain or pressure in the cheeks or around the eyes
swelling around the eye(s)
a cold that seems worse than usual and is not clearing up