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Sinus Infections in Children

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James McKiernan knows what a sinus infection feels like.

"I get them 2 or 3 times a year. It's like a stuffy nose, headache, and like pressure underneath my eyes."

It's called sinusitis. The sinuses and nasal passages become inflamed, swollen, and infected. Now the American Academy of Pediatrics is putting out new guidelines to diagnose and treat the problem in children. Previously, doctors prescribed antibiotics for all children diagnosed with a bacterial sinus infection that lasted 7 to 10 days. Now pediatricians can wait another 3 days on top of that.

"Pediatricians can actually wait and observe children for 72 hours even if they think the child has a sinus infection to see if the child can fight it on their own," says Dr. Alanna Levine.

Many sinus infections develop after a cold. Symptoms include a cough, green or yellow nasal discharge, and sometimes fever.

Sinus infections are one of the most common reasons doctor prescribe children antibiotics.
Pediatricians hope the new guidelines will cut down on the antibiotics children take.

"Any medication including antibiotics has potential side effects, children can come down with diarrhea, allergies, and rashes from antibiotics. We also don't want to overprescribe antibiotic because they aren't going to work when we really need them to."

This mom says waiting it out for treatment isn't always easy.

"I usually wait and after a week and they're in pain, their head is killing them, then I go to the doctor and get them an antibiotic."

She says sometimes that's what it takes to get them healthy again.

The new guidelines don't apply to children with chronic infections. The AAP also does not recommend using imaging tests to diagnose sinus infections in regular cases.

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