Feature Article

Snotty-nosed kids: what can we do to help?

Stephen Floreani, Peter J Wormald



Blocked and discharging noses are a common presentation for clinicians who care for children. Modern management involves a progressive evaluation of relevant symptoms and signs with appropriate medical treatment. Surgical intervention may be of benefit when medical therapy fails.

Key Points

  • A snotty nose in a child is a common presentation to the GP, and the problem is usually chronic. The most common causes are ‘the two As’: adenoids and allergy.
  • Chronic rhinosinusitis may exist alone or in combination with adenoid hypertrophy or allergy.
  • A clinical history and examination are the cornerstones of diagnosis, appropriate treatment and exclusion of atypical causes.
  • Treatment for allergy is conservative, involving allergen avoidance as well as use of intranasal saline and/or corticosteroids and nonsedating antihistamines. Appropriate courses of antibiotics are given when infective rhinosinusitis is suspected.
  • Referral to an ENT specialist is appropriate for children with likely adenoid enlargement, recurrent or chronic rhinosinusitis that has failed medical treatment, or unusual clinical findings.