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Understanding sinusitis in children

Many mothers dread the rainy season. They overdress their children with warm clothes all day long just to prevent them from getting a cold. However, how can a mother differentiate a cold from paediatric sinusitis? Sinusitis is an inflammation or swelling of the tissue lining the sinuses.

Healthy sinuses are filled with air. But when they become blocked and filled with fluid, germs can grow and cause an infection. Dr Gloria Mong’are of Keswick Hospital explains that young children are more prone to infections of the nose, sinus, and ears, especially in the first several years of life.

“These are most frequently caused by viral infections (colds) and they may be aggravated by allergies. However, if your child remains ill beyond the usual week to 10 days, a sinus infection may be the cause,” she explains.

Mong’are says that most of the symptoms associated with sinusitis are similar to those of a viral cold. Some of the symptoms include; fever, cough, congestion, a thick yellow or green nasal discharge, swelling around the eyes and a headache in older children.

“Often, your doctor is able to diagnose sinusitis from your description of the problem. Sometimes your physician will need to perform a CT scan to exactly identify the problem,” she adds. If sinusitis is the problem, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to your child to be taken over a course of 10 to 14 days.

Mong’are says many children respond well to antibiotic therapy. Nasal decongestant sprays or saline nasal sprays may also be prescribed for short-term relief of stuffiness.

Nasal saline (saltwater) drops or gentle spray can be helpful in thinning secretions and improving mucous membrane function. If your child has acute sinusitis, symptoms should improve within the first few days of treatment.

If he/she suffers from one or more symptoms of sinusitis for at least 12 weeks, the child may have chronic sinusitis. It is recommended you take your child to an ENT specialist.

Surgery is considered for the small percentage of children with severe or persistent sinusitis symptoms despite medical therapy. Using an endoscope; the ENT surgeon opens the natural drainage pathways of your child’s sinuses and makes the narrow passages wider.

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