The wall that separates the left and right nostrils in your nose is called a nasal septum. Ideally, this wall should be centered equally between the two nostrils. However, the majority of people have a nasal septum that is slightly off center. In most of these cases, no problems result. If, however, your child’s nasal septum is quite a bit off center, a number of symptoms can result.
Signs and Symptoms of a Deviated Septum
- Nasal congestion
- Frequent sinus infections
- Blockage of the nostrils (one or both)
- Headaches and/or facial pain
- Postnasal drip
- Chronic nosebleeds
- Noisy breathing during sleep
What Causes a Deviated Septum?
There are two ways that a deviated septum may develop, either through a congenital disorder or by trauma to the nose. Many children develop a deviated septum during the childbirth process. If the condition developed before childbirth, it may be due to the fact that your child’s nose was pushed against something in your womb for an extended period of time. The tissue of your child’s nose before birth or during infancy is quite soft and is still developing making it susceptible to any significant force that pushes against it.
How Can You Help Your Child?
If your child is experiencing persistent symptoms such as chronic sinus infections, nosebleeds, difficulty breathing, blocked nostrils, or any other symptoms that are not responding to treatment, it’s important to make an appointment with a doctor who specializes in nose disorders. An “ENT” (ear, nose and throat) doctor will determine the cause of these persistent problems, and will advise the most suitable treatment plan based on comprehensive diagnostic tests.
Will My Child Need Surgery?
Nasal septoplasty is the name of the type of surgery used to correct a deviated septum. However, this procedure is not typically performed on anyone under the age of 18. This is because the nasal septum continues to develop until around the age of 18. Talk with your doctor about what you can do in the meantime to alleviate your child’s symptoms.
Other Conditions that Cause Nasal Congestion and Similar Symptoms
There are many other conditions that can cause nasal congestion and other symptoms that are similar to those caused by a deviated septum. For example, allergies commonly cause chronic congestion. If your child experiences nasal congestion during specific times of the year, for example when pollen production is at its peak, then they may be experiencing allergies. Cigarette smoke, pet dander and dust mites are also common allergens.
Vacuuming regularly and taking other precautions to keep your child’s environment as free of allergens as possible can be helpful. Keep in mind that while allergies can be very annoying for adults and older children, they can actually be quite dangerous for infants, especially if they experience difficulty breathing or nursing. An ENT doctor can help you with an effective treatment plan.
Other potential causes of nasal congestion include:
- Acute sinusitis
- The common cold
- Viral infection
- Dry air
- Food allergy
- Foreign body in the nasal passages
- Cold temperature
- Bronchiolitis (common lung infection in infants)
- Latex allergy
While anatomical abnormalities of the nasal septum may be causing these symptoms, there are many other potential causes of nasal problems. Be sure to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician or ENT doctor for a proper diagnosis. Recurrent sinus infections, ongoing nosebleeds, and other troublesome symptoms may require a more aggressive treatment approach. With professional medical assistance, your child will be able to live in comfort without nasal airway obstruction and symptoms that can affect the quality of their life.
Dr. Michael Barakate is a paediatric and adult otolaryngologist located in Sydney, Australia. For more information on ENT surgery and ENT disorders, visit ENT-Surgery.com.au.