Always see a doctor if you're concerned about any aspects of your health or wellbeing while pregnant.
Always see a doctor if you're concerned about any aspects of your health or wellbeing while pregnant. 

What is it?

Sinusitis can also be called rhinosinusitis and it describes a bacterial infection or an inflammation (or both) of the sinuses. The sinuses are air-filled spaces within the bones of the face and there are three main areas, being the middle of the forehead (frontal), below the eyes (maxillary) and behind the nose (ethmoidal). Children may often develop sinusitis when they have a cold and it can be very uncomfortable for them.

What are the causes?

There are a number of causes of sinusitis in children, with the most common being the after-effects of a respiratory virus (a cold). The cold can cause the lining of the sinuses to swell, trapping mucus within the sinuses. Bacteria can then grow in this mucus, causing sinusitis.

Sinusitis can also be triggered by an allergy (such as hayfever) or exposure to chemical irritants such as cigarette smoke or swimming pool chemicals. Occasionally sinusitis may be triggered by dental infection, however this is not common in children.

Basically though, anything that irritates the lining of the child’s sinuses can trigger sinusitis.

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms of sinusitis in children include:

  • A blocked and possibly runny nose. If your child has a runny nose with yellow or green mucus, this may be a sign of sinusitis.
  • A cough or sore throat. Sinusitis can cause a post-nasal drip (accumulated mucus in the back of the nose and throat). This can cause a persistent cough, particularly at night when your child is lying down. This post-nasal drip can also cause bad breath.
  • A sore face. The mucus trapped in the sinuses can give your child a feeling of pressure inside their face. They may describe this as a sore face or  alternatively sore teeth or a headache.
  • Swelling. You might notice some swelling or tenderness around your child’s eyes.
  • A temperature.

What are the treatments?

The main treatment for sinusitis is antibiotics, which will clear up the bacterial infection. Most children will recover from sinusitis without antibiotics, but it may take several days longer.

Pain relief, such as panadol, will help to deal with the symptoms and elevating their head (with pillows, or by raising the head of the cot) can make them feel more comfortable.

Over-the-counter cold and cough medicines or sprays do not help with sinusitis and in fact nasal sprays can exacerbate the symptoms by causing more swelling of the sinus walls.  

If you suspect that your child may have sinusitis, you should make an appointment for them to visit their doctor.

Other resources

Health Insite:

Better Health Channel:

Parenting and child health – South Australian government: