Sinusitis (Sinus Infection)

Sinusitis is an infection in the sinuses caused by bacteria.

The chances of getting a bacterial sinus infection may be influenced by a virus like a cold or other upper respiratory infections (URIs), allergies, and being around irritants and pollutants such as tobacco smoke.

Colds may be like a sinus infection but usually start getting better within 10 days.
  • Cold or cough that does not get better after 10 days
  • Stuffy and runny nose that may be thick or thin, or clear to green
  • A cough that lasts a long time and may be worse at night
  • Low fever, sore throat
  • Low energy
  • Bad breath
  • Puffy face or eyes, and/or pain in the face, ears or teeth
  • Sinus infections are usually diagnosed by cold symptoms that DO NOT get better after 10 days (see above for symptoms), and the child seems sicker than with a usual cold or URI.
  • The color of the nasal drainage does not tell the difference between a cold and a sinus infection.
  • Blood work and X-rays are not usually needed.

If your child is found to have a sinus infection and not a viral infection, they may receive antibiotics.

If antibiotics are needed, the doctor, nurse or pharmacist will explain exactly how and for how long to give the medicine. It is important to use all of the medicine. Do not use old medicine you may have at home.

You may give medicine to reduce fever and keep your child comfortable. Never give aspirin without talking to the doctor first. Cough medicine and decongestants are not usually recommended, and you should use them only if your doctor tells you it is OK. 

Other ways to make the child comfortable may include rest and fluids. The child may be more comfortable in a cool room. But, every child is different, and you probably know best what makes your child comfortable.

Hand washing will help stop spreading germs to other family members.

Smoke is very irritating especially for someone with sinusitis. Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke near a child with sinusitis. Keep smoke out of your home.

  • You are worried and want to talk to the doctor
  • Your child has not improved or worsens within 72 hours
  • You notice redness or swelling around the eyes
  • Your child has a severe headache, high fever or seems much sicker
  • Although your child may begin to improve in one to three days, some symptoms may last for several more weeks.
  • Some children may need a change in antibiotics if they are not improving in two to four days.
  • Every infection is different, so be sure to ask your doctor or nurse what to expect with your child.
  • Talk to your doctor or nurse about when to send your child back to day care or school.

Your doctor may not give antibiotics if they believe your child's illness is due to a virus. Using antibiotics when they are not absolutely needed may cause them not to work the next time they are used. 

Last Updated 04/2016