The ordinary cold, followed by an infection of a sinus, is seen in large numbers of children who live in places where the temperature changes greatly from season to season. Children who live in climates where it is nice and sunny and warm most of the time do occasionally get sinus infections, but not nearly so often as those who live where it rains and snows and is damp and cold a lot. To a certain extent, all children can protect themselves against sinus infections and other illnesses affecting the nose and throat, but those who live in wet, cold places can’t protect themselves as well as those who live where the weather is always nice.
The sinuses are empty spaces—called cavities—in the bones surrounding the nose. Their purpose is to make the bones of the skull lighter and to make the voice sound better when we speak. When the sinuses are infected, our voices often sound as if we had a clothespin clamped across our nostrils. Just pinch your nostrils shut and then speak; you’ll see how your voice would sound if you had a sinus infection.
There are 4 pairs of nasal sinuses, as shown in the diagram above. These sinuses are air spaces within the skull. Their main purpose is to lighten the weight of the skull and to give resonance to the voice. They are also a frequent site of infection.
There are eight sinuses in the head, and each one of them has an opening that connects with the inside of the nose. Each sinus is lined with a membrane much like the membrane that line the inside of the nose. These membranes normally secrete a little watery mucus that keeps the sinuses and the inside of the nose from becoming too dry.
When someone has a cold, the membranes of the nose become inflamed and swollen. Most such colds are caused by viruses rather than by bacteria (germs). If the cold is taken good care of, in all probability the infection will not spread into the sinuses. But if the patient is careless and gets overheated or overtired, or dives and swims a lot under water, the membranes of the sinuses may get inflamed, too. And although most colds are caused by viruses, in neglected cases germs such as streptococci and staphylococci may take hold and cause an infection within the nearby sinuses.
A child can get a sinus infection without first having a cold. One of the commonest ways to get a sinus infection is to dive and swim underwater in a pool or lake where the water is not to clean. Then the contaminated water gets into the sinuses and creates Infections. Also, youngsters with allergies such as hay fever seem to get sinus infections more often than those who have no allergies.
Here are the ways we know there is trouble in one or more of our sinuses:
1. A cold may last much longer than usual and the nose stays stuffed for two or more weeks after the start of the cold.
2. A child may develop headaches with his cold. These headaches are worse when the head is down and the child bends over.
3. The voice sounds flat and nasal.
4. Mucus keeps draining out of the nose and down the back of the throat. This often causes a great deal of coughing, especially when the child is lying down.
5. There is pain when pressing over the sinuses at the sides of the nose or on the bones over the eyes.
6. If the infection is severe, the patient will have fever and will feel generally sick.
7. In many cases, X rays of the sinuses will show that they are infected.
Here are some things the doctor may prescribe in order to cure a sinus infection:
1. Rest in bed for a few days until the temperature is normal and the child feels better.
2. Apply warm compresses to the face, using a washcloth or towel. This may relieve some of the pain and might help to drain out some of the pus that has collected in the sinuses.
3. Breathing in steam, either from a faucet, a steam kettle, or a steam inhaler, often helps to get the mucus and pus to drain out of the sinuses more easily.
4. Special nasal sprays or nose drops are sometimes given to shrink the inflammation of the membranes and thus allow the mucus and pus to drain better.
5. Antibiotic medicines are given to kill the germs that have gotten into the sinuses.
Most sinus infections will clear up within a couple of weeks, but there is a tendency for them to come back again if people aren’t especially careful when they get their next cold. To prevent this from happening, when the next cold rolls around, here are some things I to do:
1. The cold should be treated by rest in bed until everyone is absolutely sure that there is no temperature for at least two days.
2. If there is any fever, antibiotic medicines might be given. This will not cure the cold, but it may prevent a sinus infection from developing.
3. Drafts and cold air should be avoided.
4. No one should ever blow his nose too hard, even if it means that some of the mucus stays up in the nose. Hard nose-blowing may force some of the infected mucus to go from the nose into the sinuses.
5. If the child has allergies, these should be treated by a specialist who knows how to control them, thus lessening the chances of a sinus infection
One of the commonest ways to get a sinus infection is to dive and swim underwater in a pool or lake where the water is not too clean. When contaminated water is driven up into the sinuses, it can create a sinus infection.