Sinus infection in kids: symptoms and how to treat it?

Sinus infection in kids
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mandy Liedeman


Uncovering the subtle signs of sinus infections in kids, each sniffle might be a sign of infection. Sinus infections, or sinusitis, in children manifest with symptoms like nasal congestion, cough, facial pain, and discolored nasal discharge. Unlike adults, children may experience symptoms for a shorter duration, often accompanied by low-grade fever. Diagnosing sinusitis in kids relies on clinical evaluation, considering the persistence of symptoms. Treatment involves alleviating symptoms with saline nasal irrigation, humidification, and over-the-counter decongestants under medical supervision. Antibiotics may be prescribed if a bacterial infection is suspected. It’s not just about sniffles; it’s about recognizing when those tiny noses need extra care. Timely intervention helps mitigate discomfort and prevents potential complications in pediatric sinus infections. Let us understand sinus infections in kids.  

How do I know if my child has a sinus infection?

Detecting signs of sinus infection in your kid or child involves paying attention to the following symptoms. 

“Dry air is one of the biggest causes of sinus infections, especially for those of us who are naturally predisposed to acute or chronic sinusitis,” 

Dr Bennett explains.

Persistent Cold-Like Symptoms

If your child’s cold symptoms persist for more than a week without improvement or if they worsen, it might be indicative of a sinus infection. Unlike a common cold, sinus infection symptoms may require medical attention. A baby with a sinus infection may exhibit symptoms like nasal congestion, difficulty feeding, and irritability. The prolonged symptoms suggest the infection might be more than a viral illness, possibly involving bacterial components. 

Nasal Discharge

Thick, discolored nasal discharge is a classic sign of a sinus infection. The color and consistency of the mucus can provide valuable information about the nature and severity of the infection. Green or yellow mucus may suggest a bacterial infection, while clear mucus might indicate a viral cause


A persistent cough, especially one that worsens at night, is often associated with sinus drainage and irritation. As the mucus produced during a sinus infection drains down the throat, it can trigger coughing. Recognizing this symptom is crucial for distinguishing a sinus infection from other respiratory issues. Addressing the underlying sinus problem can help alleviate the cough and promote overall recovery in children.


Complaints of nasal congestion or difficulty breathing through the nose may be linked to sinus inflammation. Swelling and increased mucus production in the sinuses can lead to a feeling of congestion. Identifying this symptom helps understand the child’s source of discomfort and guides appropriate interventions, such as saline nasal irrigation or decongestant use under medical supervision.

Facial Pain or Pressure

Children with sinus infections may express discomfort around the eyes, nose, or forehead due to increased pressure in the sinus cavities. This pain or pressure can be localized and worsen with specific movements or positions. Recognizing and addressing facial pain is crucial for managing the child’s discomfort and preventing the potential progression of the infection.


Sinus pressure can cause headaches, particularly in the forehead region. Children may complain of persistent headaches as a result of sinus inflammation. 

Bad Breath

Foul-smelling breath can occur when nasal discharge, laden with bacteria, runs down the back of the throat. This can lead to an unpleasant odor. Recognizing bad breath in children can be a subtle yet significant sign of a sinus infection.

Notice sinusitis symptoms in your child? Consult now for prompt diagnosis and tailored treatment.

How do you get rid of a sinus infection in a child?

Most sinusitis are viral and resolve on their own without the need for medical intervention. You can offer acetaminophen or ibuprofen and apply warm compresses to the region to help with pain. Children with viral illnesses shouldn’t be given aspirin since it can cause Reye syndrome, which can be fatal.

Following are the measures you can take to help alleviate symptoms and promote recovery in a child:


Encourage your youngster to consume lots of water to keep themselves hydrated and help thin mucus.


Ensure your child gets enough rest to support the body’s healing process.

Saline Nasal Irrigation

Saline sprays or drops can help flush out mucus and relieve nasal congestion in kids sinus infections. Make sure to use products specifically designed for children.

Warm Compress

A warm compress can reduce inflammation and relieve discomfort in the nasal area in your toddler’s sinus infection.


Add moisture to the air in your child’s room with a humidifier to help relieve congestion and improve breathing.

Elevate the head

Elevating the head of your child’s bed or using an extra pillow can assist in draining nasal passages and reducing congestion.

Avoid irritants

Protect your child from irritants like smoke or strong odors that may worsen their symptoms.


Antibiotics are crucial in treating sinus infections caused by bacterial pathogens in kids. Healthcare providers may prescribe antibiotics to target the underlying bacterial infection when symptoms persist or worsen after a week. Commonly prescribed antibiotics for pediatric sinus infections include amoxicillin, amoxicillin-clavulanate, or, in cases of allergy or treatment failure, alternative options like cephalosporins or macrolides may be considered, with the specific choice guided by the child’s age, severity of symptoms, and any relevant medical history.

Persistent cold symptoms in your little one? Consult now!

How do doctors diagnose sinus infections in kids?

Depending on your child’s symptoms and physical examination, your child’s doctor can typically diagnose sinusitis. More testing could be necessary to confirm the diagnosis in some circumstances. These could consist of:

 Medical History:

Doctors begin by taking a thorough medical history and inquiring about the child’s symptoms, duration, and any factors that might exacerbate or alleviate them.

  • Persistent cold-like symptoms: A history of lingering cold symptoms beyond a week.
  • Nasal discharge: Inquiring about nasal discharge’s color, consistency, and duration.
  • Coughing: Assessing the presence and characteristics of a persistent cough, especially at night.
  • Congestion: Asking about complaints about nasal congestion or difficulty breathing through the nose.
  • Facial Pain or Pressure: Inquiring about any eye, nose, or forehead discomfort.
  • Headache: Exploring if the child has been experiencing headaches, particularly in the forehead.
  • Lousy Breath: Investigating if there’s a complaint of foul-smelling breath.

Physical Examination:

A comprehensive physical examination assesses specific signs associated with sinus infections.

  • Nasal Examination: The doctor examines the nasal passages for signs of inflammation, polyps, or discharge. They may use an otoscope or nasal endoscope for a more detailed view.
  • Facial Tenderness: Gentle palpation around the sinuses to check for tenderness or swelling, especially in the forehead, cheeks, and nose bridge.
  • Throat Examination: Assess the throat for signs of postnasal drip and examine the tonsils and adenoids, which can contribute to sinus issues.
  • Oropharyngeal Examination: Check for signs of bad breath and assess the oral cavity for any abnormalities related to sinus drainage.
  • Eye Examination: In some cases, the doctor may check for any signs of eye involvement, as sinus infections can affect the eyes.

Diagnostic Imaging:

  • Sinus X-rays: This diagnostic examination uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to create images of inside tissues, bones, and organs on film. (X-rays are not usually used, but they could aid in diagnosis.)
  • Computed tomography, or CT: Sometimes referred to as a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses X-rays and computer technologies to produce horizontal or axial images (sometimes called slices) of the body. A CT scan in exquisite detail may show every body part, including the muscles, organs, fat, and bones. CT scans are more detailed than X-rays.

Additional Tests:

Sometimes, additional tests may be conducted to confirm the diagnosis or identify the causative agent.

  • Nasal Culture: Collecting a sample of nasal discharge for laboratory analysis to determine if a bacterial infection is present.
  • Allergy Testing: If allergies are suspected, allergy testing may be advised to identify specific allergens.

How long does a sinus infection last in kids?

The duration of a sinus infection in kids can vary, and it depends on different factors, including the infection’s cause, the child’s overall health, and the effectiveness of treatment. In general:

Viral Sinus Infections

Viruses cause most sinus infections in children. These infections often resolve within 7 to 10 days, gradually improving symptoms.

Bacterial Sinus Infections

If the sinus infection is bacterial, it may last longer, and a healthcare professional may prescribe antibiotics. Bacterial sinus infections can take 10 to 14 days or more to improve with appropriate treatment.

Chronic Sinusitis

Sometimes, sinus infections may become chronic, lasting over 12 weeks. Chronic sinusitis may require a more comprehensive approach to management and ongoing medical attention.

What can you give a child for a sinus infection?

Saline drops or sprays, medications to break up and clear mucus, and nasal sprays with antihistamines and decongestants might all be administered—injections for allergies or immunotherapy. If your child suffers from nasal allergies, vaccinations could lessen their sensitivity to allergens like mold, dust mites, or pollen.

Don’t ignore signs of a sinus infection in your child. Consult now!

When should I take my child to the doctor for a sinus infection?

A fever that appears 7–10 days after the onset of cold symptoms in your child may indicate a sinus infection or another infection (e.g., pneumonia, ear infection). Consult a doctor if your child has the following:

  • A cold that lasts for more than seven to ten days without improving
  • A cold that appears to be worsening after seven days of symptoms
  • Allergic symptoms that the typical allergy medication is unable to relieve

An untreated sinus infection in a toddler can lead to prolonged discomfort, potential complications, and an increased risk of recurrent infections, highlighting the importance of timely medical intervention for effective management and prevention.

FAQs about sinus in children

Can kids have a sinus infection without a fever?

Yes, children can have a sinus infection without a fever. While fever is common, signs like nasal congestion, cough, and facial pain may still indicate a sinus infection.

How to tell the difference between a cold and a sinus infection in a child?

A cold often comes on its own. Some children may have a mild fever or a few coughing fits for the first two days before developing a runny nose. However, sinus infections can be far more problematic since children often experience headaches, throat aches, high fevers, and increased sensitivity.

How do I know if my child has a bacterial sinus infection?

Identifying a bacterial sinus infection in a child involves recognizing prolonged symptoms such as persistent nasal discharge, facial pain or pressure, and worsening conditions beyond typical viral infections. If symptoms last more than ten days or worsen after initial improvement, consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and potential antibiotic treatment. 

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Piatt, Joseph H. “Intracranial suppuration complicating sinusitis among children: an epidemiological and clinical study.” Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics 7.6 (2011): 567-574.
  • Capra, Gregory, et al. “Trends in orbital complications of pediatric rhinosinusitis in the United States.” JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery 141.1 (2015): 12-17.
  • Burton, Brittany N., et al. “Perioperative risk factors associated with morbidity and mortality following pediatric inpatient sinus surgery.” Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology 128.1 (2019): 13-21.
  • Makary, Chadi A., and Hassan H. Ramadan. “Sinus and upper airway surgery in children.” Current Allergy and Asthma Reports 18 (2018): 1-5.

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