Children's Health: When Sinuses Attack!

Written by Leanna Serras

Children's Health: When Sinuses Attack!

You seem to be perfectly fine for ages but one day without any warning, it creeps up on you. The signs are all there - the non-stop sniffles, coughing, sneezing and a blocked or runny nose. Unlike a regular cold, this one just persists and refuses to go away! What a miserable time, and it's all thanks to sinuses. What are they? Read on to find out all about sinuses and what to do when you're ill!

What Are Sinuses?

Within your head are many bones that join together to form the structure of your face and skull. Some of these bones that lie along your nose, and behind your cheeks, eyes and forehead, have spaces that are full of air. These air spaces are called sinuses. Now think of your nose: the inside contains soft, wet tissue that we call mucous membranes, and they use mucus and very tiny hairs (cilia) to help filter out any dirt and germs. Similarly, sinuses also feature mucous membranes.

What do Sinuses Do?

Strangely enough, even the best scientists aren't quite certain as to what sinuses do or why we even have them. One theory is that it helps to make the bones in our heads lighter. Another reason for sinuses is that the pockets of air have an effect on what your voice sounds like.

When Good Sinuses Go Bad

If a cold continues for a long time, it can start to damage the sinuses more seriously. For example, the cilia can become damaged, which means that it would be harder for the body to filter out the germs and other bad stuff. When your nose is blocked, it's because the mucous membranes become very swollen and the entrance between the sinuses and the nose is almost completely closed off. Even worse is that the mucus (aka snot!) becomes so gooey and thick that it's very hard to get rid of it. When the mucus can't get out, unfortunately it means that germs and bacteria can live happily and keep growing. This type of situation is usually called sinusitis if it continues for about ten to fourteen days. Although it sounds quite scary, remember that it is actually quite common and many millions of people in the United States experience it every year.

Acute Sinusitis Lasts a While

When sinusitis continues for more than the normal amount of time, it is known as acute sinusitis. This means that it can last up to three months! When someone is suffering from acute sinusitis, they would usually experience a fever now and then, continuous colored discharge from the nose, coughing, swollen eyes and smelly breath. Sometimes they might also have some pain behind their eyes, cheeks and head (in the areas where the sinuses lie).

What Will the Doctor Do?

Going to the doctor can be a little scary sometimes, but if you have sinusitis, the doctor can help out a lot! At the beginning of the checkup, they will look into your ears, nose and the back of your throat. They might also ask where you feel pain in your head and try to press on the sinus areas. People who have an infection in their sinuses will have to take a medicine known as an antibiotic. Antibiotics kill the gross bacteria trapped in your sinuses. The doctor might also suggest a decongestant or a type of spray to use in your nose. Both of these will help to reduce the symptoms, so that you can feel like your usual self again.

In some cases, the sinusitis will still persist! If so, the doctor might discuss taking a special sort of X-ray of your head, called a CT-scan. The CT-scan is very quick and you won't feel anything at all. It takes a photograph of the inside of your head, so that the doctor can figure out the problem. In a few cases, surgery might be necessary to fix the sinus problem.

Generally, sinusitis cannot be passed onto other people. This means that you can still play and go to school if you don't feel too ill.