Chronic Sinusitis in Teenagers | Continuous Sinus Infection

Question: My teenage daughter (15) has been challenged with recurrent colds since she was at least 3 years old.  At this time she still gets 6-8 colds a year, very heavy, sometimes turning into a sinus infection.  Enlarged adenoids were removed in 2012 with no improvement.  No OTC meds (pain or cold) have any impact, even prescription strength pain meds offer no relief.  Excessive absences from school – feels too ill to go.  Very heavy mucous production.  CT scan in 2011 shows focus of mucosal thickening in the right maxillary sinus.  Undulation of the nasal septum.  No one has suggested chronic sinusitis. Are there cases of chronic sinusitis in teenagers?  Our school is looking for a medical condition for the cause of her recurrent colds and seemingly continuos sinus infection.  I’m looking to improve my daughter’s health.

Answer: Thank you for your question. One would not expect a healthy 15 year old to still get 6-8 colds a year.   Chronic sinusitis in teenagers is rare. While upper respiratory tract infections are quite common in children, they tend to get less frequent as they enter the teen years.  If she has continous sinus infections, I would suggest looking into other factors that could be causing these .

Among the possibilities (not all mutually exclusive) are:  sinus infections or a chronic low grade infection with exacerbations, allergies, or least likely a partial weakness in her immune system.

Sinusitis can certainly cause her recurrent infections.    Her CT scan sounds like it showed a sinus infection.  The most common cause of recurrent sinus infections in children is chronic infections in the adenoids- and this seems like it was addressed.  Sometimes, though, adenoids can regrow and get re-infected.  I would ask your pediatrician to have her get an ENT evaluation.

She could also have allergies- either causing what seems like recurrent colds- or as a factor causing recurrent sinusitis.

Less likely is a selective immune deficiency.  Some children may have a weakness in their ability to fight off colds because they have a diminished antibody response to certain viruses.   This is not in any way related to AIDs- but can cause a child to have an increased number of these URIs.

If you are in the NY area- we would be happy to see your daughter here at the NY Sinus Center…

I hope this helps clears things up

Robert Pincus MD

Co-Director NY Sinus Center