Sinus infections, also commonly referred to by doctors as “sinusitis,” affects over 35 million patients every year. Often caused by inflammation and congestion related to the common cold, sinus infections can become a chronic condition in people with environmental allergies or weakened immune systems. Although sinus conditions are not contagious, parents of a child with a sinus infection are often understandably concerned about recurring sinus and ear infections.
Ear infections are also common among younger children; children who have not yet acquired the ability to speak may point at their ears, frown, or even cry in order to try to communicate their condition to their parents or caregivers. The vast majority of children do have at least one ear infection before they outgrow diapers, and by the time they start school many children will have had several.
Parents of children with recurring ear or sinus infections may visit a doctor for common ENT problems. Ear, Nose, and Throat doctors should be able to rule out any congenital abnormalities of the ear or sinus passage and may be able to diagnose hearing loss or allergies if they are present in the child. Genetics can explain about half of all hearing loss, but concerns about damage from repeated ear infections are also valid.
If recurrent sinus problems are causing breathing difficulties in younger children, doctors may also be able to test for common allergies: pets, dust, mold, and allergies to various medications should fall within the testing parameters. The earlier a child can receive treatment for allergies and the more vigilant parents can be, the better the outcome for the young patient in general.
Some popular home remedies have arisen for the treatment of sinus problems, but parents are cautioned that there may be some grave side effects for the patient. Recently, a patient died after irrigating her nasal passage with a small device that was filled with water. These devices are common, but the water she used delivered a fatal brain amoeba; experts strongly advise the use of sterilized water if nasal irrigation is planned.