Skip to Content

Sinusitis in Children



is inflammation or infection of your child's sinuses. It is most often caused by a virus. Acute sinusitis may last up to 30 days. Chronic sinusitis lasts longer than 90 days. Recurrent sinusitis means your child has sinusitis 3 times in 6 months or 4 times in 1 year.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Fever
  • Pain, pressure, redness, or swelling around the forehead, cheeks, or eyes
  • Thick yellow or green discharge from your child's nose
  • Tenderness when you touch your child's face over his or her sinuses
  • Dry cough that happens mostly at night or when your child lies down
  • Sore throat or bad breath
  • Headache and face pain that is worse when your child leans forward
  • Tooth pain or pain when your child chews

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child's eye and eyelid are red, swollen, and painful.
  • Your child cannot open his or her eye.
  • Your child has vision changes, such as double vision.
  • Your child's eyeball bulges out or your child cannot move his or her eye.
  • Your child is more sleepy than normal, or you notice changes in his or her ability to think, move, or talk.
  • Your child has a stiff neck, a fever, or a bad headache.
  • Your child's forehead or scalp is swollen.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child's symptoms get worse after 5 to 7 days.
  • Your child's symptoms do not go away after 10 days.
  • Your child has nausea and vomiting.
  • Your child's nose is bleeding.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


Your child's symptoms may go away on their own. Your child's healthcare provider may recommend watchful waiting for 3 days before starting antibiotics. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines your child uses to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your child's doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Nasal steroid sprays may help decrease inflammation in your child's nose and sinuses.
  • Antibiotics help treat or prevent a bacterial infection.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Manage your child's symptoms:

  • Have your child breathe in steam. Heat a bowl of water until you see steam. Have your child lean over the bowl and make a tent over his or her head with a large towel. Tell your child to breathe deeply for about 20 minutes. Do not let your child get too close to the steam. Do this 3 times a day. Your child can also breathe deeply when he or she takes a hot shower.
  • Help your child rinse his or her sinuses. Use a sinus rinse device to rinse your child's nasal passages with a saline (salt water) solution or distilled water. Do not use tap water. This will help thin the mucus in your child's nose and rinse away pollen and dirt. It will also help reduce swelling so your child can breathe normally. Ask your child's healthcare provider how often to do this.
  • Have your older child sleep with his or her head elevated. Place an extra pillow under your child's head before he or she goes to sleep to help the sinuses drain.
  • Give your child liquids as directed. Liquids will thin the mucus in your child's nose and help it drain. Ask your child's healthcare provider how much liquid to give your child and which liquids are best for him or her. Avoid drinks that contain caffeine.

Prevent the spread of germs:

Wash your and your child's hands often with soap and water. Encourage your child to wash his or her hands after using the bathroom, coughing, or sneezing.


Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Your child may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.