How Can I Tell if My Child has a Cold or a Sinus Infection?

While colds are common, less than 1 in 15 children get a sinus infection during or after a cold. Children with a cold have a runny nose with mucus that starts clear, gets cloudy for a few days then runs clear again.   Most of the time, the symptoms resolve in about 10 days.  A fever can be present for the first 2-3 days of a cold.

There are several ways a sinus infection can present in several ways.

Persistent cold symptoms—the runny nose and cough are lasting 12 days or more and NOT improving. 

Severe- This type of sinus infection includes with a fever longer than three days and with thick, cloudy or colored mucus.  

Worsening—a cold that starts to improve then the fever returns or the cough worsens.

You should discuss your child’s symptoms with a health care provider to decide if antibiotic therapy is needed.  Antibiotics do not help cure a cold.  Antibiotics should not be taken when a child has a cold to prevent an ear infection or pneumonia.  If you have concerns regarding your child’s respiratory infection, please contact your child’s health care provider.

By Dr. Sharon Rink, pediatrician, ThedaCare Physicians-Pediatrics in Darboy.