Prevalence of clinical sinusitis in young children followed up by primary care pediatricians

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998 Mar;152(3):244-8. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.152.3.244.


Objective: To determine the proportion of young children seen in primary care pediatric practices who meet clinical criteria for the diagnosis of sinusitis, and variations in the management of these patients' conditions.

Design: Observational cohort study.

Settings: Pediatric practices in the Seattle, Wash, area participating in the Puget Sound Pediatric Research Network, a regional practice-based research organization.

Patients: Children, 1 to 5 years old, presenting for any reason to participating practices.

Methods: Parents of all 1307 eligible children completed a survey specifically detailing the presence of nasal congestion or discharge and daytime cough, the duration of these symptoms, and whether the symptoms were improving. For patients meeting clinical criteria for sinusitis (nasal congestion and daytime cough persisting for > 9 days without improvement), the pediatrician recorded the presence/severity of other signs and symptoms, and the treatment prescribed. Severity of symptoms was reassessed using telephone interviews with parents at 48 to 72 hours, and again at 10 to 14 days, after the office visit. Study data were collected during 1-week to 3-week blocks at each office site during the winter months.

Results: Data were collected on 1307 children; 121 had persistent respiratory symptoms meeting criteria for a diagnosis of sinusitis (9.3%, 95% confidence interval, 7.7%-10.9%). Patients who presented with cold/cough symptoms were significantly more likely to meet criteria for sinusitis than those who came for any other reason (17.3% vs 4.2%, respectively, P < .001). A physician study form was completed on 87 children with persistent symptoms; antibiotics were prescribed for 68 (78%) of these patients. Antibiotic-treated patients were more likely to have symptoms lasting longer than 29 days (P = .004) and to have purulent nasal discharge (P = .03), and were judged to be sicker at enrollment (P = .001) than untreated children. A concurrent otitis media was diagnosed in 40 (46%) of 87 patients; if the proportion of children with otitis media is excluded, 5% of children 1 to 5 years old who are seen in primary care pediatrics might be expected to receive antibiotics exclusively for a diagnosis of sinusitis. At 24 to 48 hours and at 10 to 14 days after the clinic visit, a trend was noted toward more rapid improvement among those children who were treated with antibiotics.

Conclusion: When the criteria are strictly adhered to, only a small proportion of young children seen during the winter months in primary care pediatric practices will be diagnosed with sinusitis.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child, Preschool
  • Family Practice
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Pediatrics
  • Prevalence
  • Sinusitis / diagnosis
  • Sinusitis / drug therapy
  • Sinusitis / epidemiology*
  • Washington / epidemiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents