Acute Sinusitis Pediatric Care Plan

By David Shafran, MD
Medically reviewed
December 22, 2020

What is Acute Sinusitis?

Sinusitis is swelling and inflammation of the lining of the nose and sinuses. The condition is sometimes known as a sinus infection.

Sinuses are air-filled spaces located in different areas of the face. Usually they’re empty.

When a child gets a cold, the lining of these spaces becomes irritated and starts making fluid. Most of the time this process gets better on its own and the discomfort is short-term.

But if the fluid in these spaces sits there long enough or can’t drain, they can become infected with bacteria. This process usually takes 7 to 10 days.

Signs and symptoms of acute sinusitis include:

  • At least 10 days of cold symptoms that don’t improve
  • Headache or sinus pressure
  • Thick nasal discharge
  • Dark circles/bags under the eyes

How to Treat Acute Sinusitis

Sinus pain with a cold is common. It gets better on its own. If symptoms last for 10 days or more, then a bacterial sinus infection becomes more likely.

Bacterial sinus infections are treated with antibiotics and symptoms usually begin to improve within 2 to 3 days.

Other supportive care you can offer your child includes:

Sinus pain

  • Tylenol or ibuprofen
  • Warm compresses over the sinuses as often as your child likes

Nasal congestion

  • Drink plenty of fluids to thin the congestion
  • Use saline (salt water) nose drops or spray to loosen up the dried mucus. If you don’t have saline, you can use a few drops of bottled water or clean tap water.
  • Run a hot shower to create a steam-filled bathroom where your child can sit to help clear stuffiness
  • For children 8 years of age and older, saline sinus irrigation can provide better relief of congestion.
  • Cool-mist humidifier. Make sure to clean daily to avoid bacteria and mold growth. Warm-mist humidifier not recommended.

Check in with K if…

  • You have general questions about your child’s condition
  • You’d like some suggestions about supportive care
  • You want general followup for your child

See a doctor in person if…

  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child develops a worsening headache especially if it’s in one specific area
  • Swelling redness around the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Your child is not drinking well
  • Your child develops unusual lethargy/tiredness 
  • Your child’s symptoms don’t improve or worsen after 48-72 hours on antibiotics
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

David Shafran, MD

Dr. Shafran is a board-certified pediatrics physician. He joins K Health from the Cleveland Clinic, where he led a pediatrics practice and completed a fellowship in transplant ethics. He has completed multiple fellowships, including one in pediatric nephrology at Rainbow, Babies & Children's University Hospitals. He received his medical degree from the Sackler School of Medicine in Tel Aviv and completed his medical residency at the Jacobi Medical Center.