When your child’s cold has lasted the better part of two weeks and doesn’t seem to be getting any better, he may have a sinus infection. Because sinuses aren’t yet fully developed in young children, sinusitis symptoms are much like those of the common cold: a runny nose, post-nasal drip, a low-grade fever, irritability and fatigue, the occasional daytime cough, a frequent nighttime cough and swelling around the eyes. Your pediatrician can tell you whether your child’s sinus infection is bacterial, which calls for antibiotics, or viral, which does not. In the meantime, here are a few way to help relieve your child's symptoms.
Adding some humidity to dry air is an easy way to give your child major relief. Because breathing dry air irritates the nasal passage, increasing inflammation and sinus pressure, running a humidifier or vaporizer can ease her symptoms with every breath. Breathing moist air helps calm inflammation and thin mucus, allowing it to drain more easily. Use a cool-mist humidifier for younger children to avoid the potential of scalds or burns that can happen with a warm-mist humidifier. If you don’t have a humidifier, try sitting with your child in the bathroom for several minutes while running a hot shower. Breathing steamy air like this two to four times a day can help relieve congestion.
Unlike older kids, children younger than six years don’t typically experience headaches when they have a sinus infection, simply because their sinuses are still relatively small. That doesn’t mean that holding a warm compress across the bridge of your child’s nose and cheeks won’t help — it can relieve pressure from ongoing congestion and help loosen mucus. If your child feels achy or has a fever that makes her uncomfortable, the age-appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen can ease her pain and help her feel less irritable. A pain reliever isn’t necessary, however, if your child doesn’t seem to be uncomfortable or experiencing any discomfort from their symptoms.
If you’ve ever had a bad cold or a sinus infection, you may know how just how comforting a cup of hot tea with honey can be. Warm liquids may provide immediate relief for a sore throat, and help thin and loosen mucus in the process. Although young children shouldn’t have hot drinks, a warm cup of tea or a small bowl of clear broth can have the same effect. If your child isn’t interested in a warm drink, don’t fret — cold liquids like ice water or juice can be just as soothing on his throat. More importantly, getting enough to drink will help him stay hydrated and prevent his mucus from getting thicker.
It’s only natural to want to give your child an over-the-counter (OTC) cough or cold medicine when her cough gets worse at night, or her congestion makes it hard for her to breathe. But OTC cough and cold medicines aren’t recommended for any children under the age of four, and some pediatricians don’t recommend giving them to children younger than six. For a child who’s too
young for traditional OTC cough medicines, concentrate on doing the things that help keep her mucus flowing, like running a humidifier and promoting hydration. If your child is old enough to take an OTC cough or cold medicine, get a green light from your pediatrician first, and follow dosing instructions exactly.
- American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery: Pediatric Sinusitis
- Stanford Children’s Health: Sinusitis in Children
- Kids Health: Sinusitis
- Kids Health: When Sinuses Attack!
- HealthyChildren.org: The Difference Between Sinusitis and a Cold
- Medline Plus: Sinusitis
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Symptom Relief