An ear, nose and throat specialist tells you how you can end your child’s problems with the sniffles.


Stay-at-home mum Amanda Wong and her hubby thought initially that their air conditioning was to blame for her 9-year-old son waking up daily with a stuffy nose.

Wong, 34, says, “He was getting through a box of tissue almost every week. We really had to stock up.” Now, thanks to an effective air purifier ― the filter blocks even the tiniest speck of airborne bacteria — her son’s allergic sinusitis condition has improved.

Sinusitis is a condition where the lining of the sinus is inflamed, which leads to a build-up of mucus and phlegm, which in turn, causes breathing difficulty. Rhinitis ― a closely related condition ― is the inflammation of the nasal passage. Notes Dr Dawn Teo, a paediatric ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist with The Children’s Eye & ENT Centre, “Since it is difficult to demarcate or differentiate the two — as they commonly occur together — we often call it rhinosinusitis.”


Dr Teo elaborates on three common sinus conditions and how you can help your child find relief:

Acute Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (URTI)

WHAT Also known as the common cold, it can occur as often as four to six times in a year. If left untreated, some cases of URTIs can turn into an Acute Bacterial Rhinosinusitis (ABRS). Junior will likely experience symptoms like a fever, facial pain especially around his sinuses, coloured or smelly mucus, coughing and a sensation of mucus dripping down at the back of his nose into his mouth.

EXPERT SAY Practising good personal hygiene like washing your hands frequently can reduce your chances of falling ill. Dr Teo notes, “Recent studies have shown that certain vitamin deficiencies like vitamins C and D can lead to greater susceptibility to viral infections.” To help him avoid the common cold, make sure junior loads up on fruit and veg, as well as spends time outdoors.

“Allergies are for life, but sometimes, as the nasal passages grow and develop, [children] may not be as affected by their symptoms.”

Allergic Rhinitis, Sinusitis, Rhinosinusitis (Nasal Allergies)

WHAT Airborne allergens like pollen and even dust mites can inflame the nasal passages and sinuses. This gives rise to sudden bouts of sneezing, or a runny or blocked nose, which can last several hours at a time. Dr Teo points out, “Because it can occur daily or fairly frequently, many parents mistake this to be a chronic sinus issue when it is just nasal allergies.” And it is a common condition which affects close to 50 per cent of Singaporeans.

Junior may be at a higher risk of suffering from allergic rhinosinusitis if he suffers from other allergies like asthma or eczema. Dr Teo states that research shows that up to 80 per cent of asthma patients also have allergic rhinitis. These patients’ bodies somehow over-respond to common allergens in the environment, which leads to nasal, chest or skin conditions. Plus, one out of every five people with chronic or bacterial sinusitis often also have an underlying allergic condition, too.

EXPERT SAY Parents often have a misconceived idea that their kiddo will eventually grow out of allergic rhinitis. Dr Teo points out, “Allergies are for life, but sometimes, as the nasal passages grow and develop, [children] may not be as affected by their symptoms.” Like Wong, you can minimise your kid’s exposure to allergens by installing a HEPA air-cleaner in the house to trap air particles invisible to the naked eye. Other measures: Keep your living and sleeping areas free from dust and dirt, wash bedlinen in hot water and clean out the filters in your air-conditioning system.

Chronic Rhinosinusitis

WHAT If your tween’s Acute Bacterial Rhinosinusitis symptoms extend beyond 12 weeks or more, he is suffering from Chronic Rhinosinusitis. The good news is that this condition is uncommon among children and tend to occur in patients with underlying health conditions like cystic fibrosis or immune deficiency disorders.

EXPERT SAY Use the prescribed medication as dispensed by the docs. Usually, carrying out a nasal irrigation — washing the nose with a formulated solution — will also do the trick. Dr Teo adds that humidifying a room may also offer some relief.

Photo and illustration: iStock

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