There are few things that cause more concern to parents than dealing with a sick child. These concerns can be caused by something as simple as a persistent runny nose. Is it just a run-of-the-mill cold or is there more at work?
Young children with immature immune systems are much more likely to be affected by many illnesses. The nose, sinuses, and ears are all particularly prone to issues during the first few years of life.
It is often thought that some common symptoms are indicative of a sinus infection and parents run to the doctor hoping for an antibiotic to cure their ailing little ones. More often than not, though, these are the tell-tale signs of an Upper Respiratory Infection. These are most frequently caused by viruses and will not be affected by antibiotics. Other possible causes are allergies or the proverbial "simple cold".
Usual symptoms begin with a runny nose that is initially clear but may progress to yellow or green within a few days. Other possible symptoms include fever, headache, cough, bad breath, and altered activity level. The similarity to bacterial infection symptoms makes it difficult to distinguish between viral URI and a bacterial situation. With a viral URI, these symptoms may persist for up to a week and then gradually improve. Rushing out to get a prescription antibiotic will have no affect against a viral infection. In fact, it may actually increase the chances of having a secondary bacterial infection that is resistant to certain antibiotics.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has released recommendations regarding the diagnosis of bacterial sinusitis in children. If these symptoms have been present for 10-14 days with no improvement, they may be evidence of a bacterial infection. Children who have had a shorter duration of illness may still be diagnosed if their symptoms are severe. If symptoms continue to worsen after 5 days of illness or do not show improvement after 10 days, a doctor should be consulted. Also, a visit to the doctor is warranted if the child's fever is consistently over 102 degrees and does not seem to improve within a few days.
Diagnosis of a sinus infection is generally made based on patient history and physical examination. Sometimes, though, x-rays or CT scans may be needed to support or confirm this diagnosis. Children with recurrent sinus infections most often have an allergy or ongoing exposure to an irritant that needs to be found and addressed. There are also several anatomical issues that lend themselves to frequent sinus infections.
Treatment of bacteria sinus infections begins with...you guessed it...the appropriate antibiotic. Saline solutions may be used to thin mucous and speed healing. Decongestants and antihistamines may assist with symptoms but do not seem to speed healing of infected tissues. Treatment will generally last from 7-21 days depending on the antibiotic used and severity of the situation.
Acute sinusitis will generally being to improve within the first few days of appropriate treatment. Even if dramatic improvement is seen, treatment should continue through the entire course of antibiotic to ensure that the infection is completely cleared.