When it comes to childhood illnesses, it can often be difficult to differentiate sinusitis from other conditions such as a cold. It is important, however, to make the distinction. Prescription medicines such as antibiotics, aren’t going to be much help to a child who just has a persistent cold, for example, and cold remedies won’t deal with the underlying causes of sinusitis.
What is sinusitis?
The sinuses are four small air-filled cavities behind the cheekbones, nose and forehead. When they are infected with bacteria, these cavities become inflamed and blocked with mucus. Sinusitis is very common and usually will go away after a week or two. For some unlucky children it may become chronic, which means that symptoms persist over several weeks or even months – and can often recur.
How can I tell if it’s a cold or sinusitis?
This can be quite tricky. Both conditions produce mucus and are characterised by a persistent cough and headaches. Sinusitis tends to last longer than a cold; if symptoms continue for longer than two weeks, then that’s a sign it could be sinusitis, and a visit to your GP is in order.
The intensity of the symptoms is also a clue. With sinusitis, the child may experience a daytime cough getting worse at night as well as three to four days of fever. Because the condition causes pressure behind the facial bones, the child may experience headaches, facial pain, a constant sore throat and bad breath.
What treatments are available?
If the symptoms are consistent with sinusitis, then take the child to a GP immediately. Sinusitis is a bacterial infection, so your doctor will most likely diagnose a course of antibiotics. This should combat the underlying causes of the sinusitis and help it clear up after a few days.
The symptoms can be treated in a number of ways to make the child more comfortable as the antibiotics take effect. Decongestants, either in nasal spray or tablet form, will help relieve the pressure behind the nose. Nasal drops can have the same effect, as will inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water. During his or her recovery time, make sure your child has plenty of rest and takes plenty of fluids. Sinusitis can be exceptionally tiring, so it’s unlikely your child will want to do much apart from rest, anyway.
In a very small number of cases, the sinusitis may become chronic. If this is the case, surgery may be required. There are currently two techniques available. Traditional sinus surgery involves the scraping away of some of the sinus tissue to open up the cavity and allow it to drain. Another method, Balloon Sinuplasty???, involves inflating a balloon catheter within the sinus to open it up and reshape it. It has to be stressed, though, that surgery is only necessary for a very small number of children.