What is it?

A "sinus" is a sac or cavity in a bone or tissue. The sinuses which are connected to the nasal passages are air-filled sacs in the bones of the skull. There are four sets:

  • The maxillary sinuses are in the maxillary (cheek) bones just under the eyes.
  • The frontal sinuses are in the frontal bone (the hard part of the forehead) just above the eyes.
  • The sphenoid sinuses are in the sphenoid bone (at the base of the skull).
  • The ethmoid sinuses are in the ethmoid bone which is located between the nose and eyes.

Sinuses make mucus, which cleans bacteria and other particles out of the air we breathe. Tiny hairs called cilia, which line the sinuses, sweep out the mucus so it can drain out of the nose. Sinusitis happens when the lining of the sinuses becomes infected and swollen. In children, the ethmoid sinuses are the ones most commonly involved in sinusitis.

What are the symptoms of sinusitis?

Sinuses can be irritated by a common cold or other occurrences, such as a child putting a foreign object, such as a peanut or raisin, into the nose. When this happens, the lining of the sinuses swells, mucous is not able to drain as quickly, and the mucous becomes infected. Some of the most common symptoms of sinusitis are:

  • Yellow or green nasal drainage
  • Cough, sneezing, congestion, or fever
  • Facial pain or headache
  • Swelling around the eyes

Because the symptoms of sinusitis can mimic a cold, it can appear as if the illness is nothing more than a very long cold. For this reason, colds that lasts more than ten days should be evaluated by a medical provider.

What is the treatment?

There are many home treatments, such as using moist heat and drinking plenty of water, that can help sinusitis. More serious cases of sinusitis may require prescription medications. Surgery for sinusitis is only required in the most severe cases. Often, in these instances sinusitis is accompanied by other conditions, such as nose polyps, abscesses, or a ruptured salivary gland duct. In some cases, an adenoidectomy (PDF) may be performed at the same time.

About surgery for sinusitis at Children's

The ENT surgery team at Children's provides next-generation care to neonatal infants, newborns, children, and adolescents from throughout the Upper Midwest. This multidisciplinary team provides some of the most cutting-edge, delicate treatments available, including newborn surgery and minimally invasive surgery. Otolaryngology surgery is performed at Children's - Minneapolis, Children's - St. Paul, and Children's West.

If you are a family member looking for a Children's ENT specialist, visit Find a Doctor.

If you are a health professional looking for a consultation or referral information, please call Children's Physician Referral at 1-866-755-2121 (toll-free).

Return to Children's ENT surgery home page.