When a toddler is sick, even a very verbal one may not have the language to tell you exactly what's wrong. What looks like a common cold could really be something more serious and possibly something that warrants a doctor's visit and antibiotics. The hard part is knowing when you've hit that point, so it's helpful to know the signs your toddler has a sinus infection and not just a common cold.
A sinus infection, or sinusitis ("itis" is an inflammation), "occurs when the fluid that accumulates in the sinuses during a cold or allergy doesn't drain sufficiently through the nose and the back of the throat and eventually becomes infected," according to Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician who has written 22 books on childcare. He cautioned that if your child's cold has lasted for 10 days, if they seem sicker than usual and have lost their energy, it could be a good idea to see a doctor.
What can you do to treat a sinus infection? The reason Dr. Sears recommends you see a doctor is that sinus infections that are bacterial (as opposed to viral, which is a really bad cold), can be treated with antibiotics. Dr. Raj Sindwani, an ear, nose and throat specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, said that viral sinus infections typically resolve on their own, much as a cold does. He echoed Dr. Sears in suggesting you seek care if it doesn't resolve in seven to 10 days. The only way to really know for sure if it's bacterial is to take a swab inside your child's nose and culture it to see if it grows bacteria, like they do for strep tests. The antibiotics should resolve the symptoms within the first few days, but remember to give the whole course that has been prescribed, even if by the end your child appears perfectly fine.