Rhinosinusitis/persistent runny nose

Advice for professionals to be used with parents and carers

A runny nose is extremely common in young children. It is usually caused by coughs and colds, which your child can catch repeatedly, especially over the winter months. It is more common in children attending nursery/childcare. A cold typically lasts 7-10 days but when your child catches another infection before they have fully recovered for the first time it can seem like it is going on forever! Very few children with persistent runny noses require prescribed treatments such as antibiotics.

Symptoms that suggest specific treatment is required include:

  • Persistent offensive discharge (bloody mucus) lasting longer than 10 days
  • Completely blocked nose
  • Pain and tenderness on one side of the face, around the eyes or forehead
  • Headache
  • Fever

During spring and summer these symptoms could indicate hay fever -  see the relevant pathway here

When should you worry?

If your child has any of the following:

  • Becomes pale, mottled and feels abnormally cold to touch
  • Servere Headache
  • Servere pain in eyes
  • Persistent Vomiting
  • Is going blue around the lips
  • Has a fit/seizure
  • Becomes extremely agitated (crying inconsolably despite distraction), confused or very lethargic (difficult to wake)
  • Develops a rash that does not disappear with pressure (the 'Glass Test')
  • Is under 3 months of age with a temperature of 38°C / 100.4°F or above (unless fever in the 48 hours following vaccinations and no other red or amber features) 

You need urgent help

Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999

If your child has any of the following:

  • pain in eyes
  • Redness and swelling of the skin around the eyes
  • Extreme sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • Changes in vision including flashing lights (vision can appear blurred or misted because of discharge smeared over the surface of the eye, but this will usually clear on blinking or wiping the eyes)
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Babies under 28 days with a red eye(s) or lots of thick pus from their eye(s). A sticky eye(s) without redness or swelling is quite common in babies due to blocked tear ducts - this does not require review by a doctor
  • Is having breathing problems, such as rapid breathing, shortness of breath or laboured breathing (drawing in of muscles below the lower ribs when they breath in)
  • Seems dehydrated (sunken eyes, drowsy or no urine passed for 12 hours)
  • Is becoming drowsy (excessively sleepy) or irritable (unable to settle them with toys, TV, food or picking up) - especially if they remain drowsy or irritable despite their fever coming down
  • Has extreme shivering or complains of muscle pain
  • Is 3-6 months of age with a temperature of 39°C / 102.2°F or above (but fever is common in babies up to 2 days after they receive vaccinations)
  • Continues to have a fever of 38.0°C or above for more than 5 days
  • Is getting worse or if you are worried

You need to contact your GP Surgery today

Please ring your GP surgery or contact NHS 111 - dial 111 or for children aged 5 years and above visit 111.nhs.uk

If none of the above features are present

Pharmacy/ Self care

Pharmacists can advise and treat a range of common symptoms. No appointment is needed and most pharmacies have a private consulting area. Click on this link to find a Pharmacy near to you

If you are still concerned about your child, contact NHS 111 – dial 111 or for children aged 5 years and above visit 111.nhs.uk


This guidance has been reviewed and adapted by healthcare professionals across the Black Country Integrated Care System.

Causes of rhinosinusitis

Most cases of rhinosinusitis in children are caused by an infection; your child may also have a sore throat, cough or earache. If you have concerns about coughs and colds click here. 


Most children with rhinosinusitis do not need treatment with antibiotics - they recover just as quickly without them and can avoid some of the side effects that antibiotics can cause.

If your child has any features of severe infection (amber or red features), they will need to be assessed urgently by a healthcare professional.

You can help relieve symptoms by:

  • Giving your child paracetamol or ibuprofen to help relieve pain
  • Holding a warm clean flannel over their face for a few minutes several times day
  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids

It can take up to 2 weeks for a child to fully recover from rhinosinusitis.

 An image of an infographic about antibiotics
Feedback Question: Has the advice on this page helped you with a healthcare decision?