Swollen sinuses can cause a sinus infection. Learn how to spot the signs and give treatment.


What Is a Sinus Infection?

A sinus infection, or sinusitis, is caused by bacteria being trapped when the sinuses -- air-filled cavities behind the bones of the face -- become inflamed and swollen. The most common bacteria that cause sinus infections are streptococcus pneumoniae, moraxella catarrhalis, and haemophilus influenzae. Sinus infections often occur during the common cold, when mucus and bacteria drainage is blocked.

Symptoms and Signs of Sinus Infections

Sinus infections usually start as an upper respiratory infection, such as the common cold, with runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, and cough. Mucus from the nose often starts out clear but then becomes thicker and stickier. Pain may develop because there is increased pressure in the blocked sinus, either in the forehead area, cheek area, between the eyes, or behind the nose. The pain can feel worse when the child leans forward, and if you press firmly or tap lightly over an affected sinus, there may be tenderness. In addition, the child may have a fever and headache.

Sinus infections are difficult to diagnose, but a runny nose lasting more than 10 to 14 days that is combined with coughing during the day and night can be a sign. Sometimes sinus infections come on suddenly, with severe nasal congestion, thick yellow or green mucus, and high fevers. Infection in the cheek sinuses may also cause pain that can be mistaken for a toothache. Chronic forehead headaches can be caused by sinus infections in older children. Sinus infections can sometimes spread to other parts near the sinuses, including the eyes, brain, and bones of the face.

How to Prevent Sinus Infections

Sinus infections often develop as a complication from the common cold. Even though it is difficult to prevent your child from getting a cold, you can take these steps to reduce infections and colds:

  • Have your child take prescribed allergy medicines regularly.
  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer to avoid dry air indoors, which can dry out the mucus membranes in the sinuses, which in turn worsens drainage and increases infections.
  • Shield your child from tobacco smoke because it increases the risk of respiratory infections.

Treatment for Sinus Infections

Always contract a doctor if your child has worsening symptoms of a sinus infection and if there is swelling or redness of the skin over the sinuses. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics as treatment; these should be taken as prescribed and completed for the entire course. Otherwise, consult your doctor before following these guidelines to make sure your child recovers:

  • Administer saltwater (saline) nose drops or sprays to keep the mucus membranes in the nose moist and to help open up the sinuses. This will improve air flow to the sinuses and allow more drainage, which relieves pain. Be careful with decongestant nose drops. They can shrink swollen tissues for the first couple of days but shouldn't be used for more than three days because the swelling may actually get worse.
  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer to add moisture to the air.
  • Give acetaminophen (Children's Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Children's Advil) to help reduce fever and relieve pain. Give antihistamines if allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is causing the sinus infections.

If your child still has a fever after two or three days of antibiotic treatment, contact your doctor.

Copyright ? 2012 Meredith Corporation.

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