Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Share this article on:

Signs and Symptoms That Differentiate Acute Sinusitis From Viral Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

Shaikh, Nader MD, MPH*; Hoberman, Alejandro MD*; Kearney, Diana H. RN, CCRC*; Colborn, D. Kathleen BS*; Kurs-Lasky, Marcia MS; Jeong, Jong H. PhD; Haralam, Mary Ann CRNP*; Bowen, A’Delbert MD; Flom, Lynda L. MD; Wald, Ellen R. MD§

The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal: October 2013 - Volume 32 - Issue 10 - p 1061–1065
doi: 10.1097/INF.0b013e31829bb2c2
Original Studies

Objective: Differentiating acute bacterial sinusitis from viral upper respiratory tract infection (URI) is challenging; 20% to 40% of children diagnosed with acute sinusitis based on clinical criteria likely have an uncomplicated URI. The objective of this study was to determine which signs and symptoms could be used to identify the subgroup of children who meet current clinical criteria for sinusitis but who nevertheless have a viral URI.

Methods: We obtained sinus radiographs in consecutive children meeting a priori clinical criteria for acute sinusitis. We considered the subgroup of children with completely normal sinus radiographs to have an uncomplicated URI despite meeting the clinical diagnostic criteria for sinusitis. We examined the utility of signs and symptoms in identifying children with URI.

Results: Of 258 children enrolled, 54 (20.9%) children had completely normal radiographs. The absence of green nasal discharge, the absence of disturbed sleep and mild symptoms were associated with a diagnosis of URI. No physical exam findings were particularly helpful in distinguishing between children with normal versus abnormal radiographs.

Conclusions: Among children meeting current criteria for the diagnosis of acute sinusitis, those with mild symptoms are significantly more likely to have a URI than those with severe symptoms. In addition to assessing overall severity of symptoms, practitioners should ask about sleep disturbance and green nasal discharge when assessing children with suspected sinusitis; their absence favors a diagnosis of URI.

From the *Division of General Academic Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health, Biostatistics; Division of Pediatric Radiology, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; and §University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI.

Accepted for publication May 13, 2013.

N.S. was supported by a grant (1R21AI076677) from the National Institutes of Health (NIAID). This grant benefited from University of Pittsburgh CTSI (NIH/NCRR/CTSA Grant UL1 RR024153). The authors have no other funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Address for correspondence: Nader Shaikh, MD, MPH, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, General Academic Pediatrics, 4401 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15224. E-mail:

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.