Sinus pressure can start to build if you have the common cold or seasonal allergies. When the pressure is increasing, it often means that pain and discomfort also go up.
Unfortunately, it can feel like sinus pressure puts a damper on every other aspect of your life. A sinus headache makes it hard to work or focus on any task. Also, it’s common for the pain to make it difficult to do daily activities, such as leaning down to pick up toys around the house.
The good news is that there are several at-home remedies that can help to alleviate a sinus headache. If these DIY treatments don’t work, then you might benefit by talking to an ENT sinus specialist to learn more about medical treatments.
Why Do Sinus Headaches Develop?
If you have a sinus headache, then the pain is focused in the facial area: typically, on the forehead. You might also have coinciding pain in the other sinuses, such as between your eyes or on your cheeks.
Usually, sinus headaches develop because of increasing pressure due to blocked nasal passages. If the sinuses and nasal area can’t drain, then inflammation, pain, and congestion occur.
Sometimes, sinus headaches happen because of a sinus infection, known as sinusitis. The slow drainage creates the ideal conditions for bacterial growth, resulting in more mucus and other related symptoms.
There are also times when sinus headaches are related to a migraine. For example, you might have migraine pain that moves into the facial and sinus areas.
How to Tell If You Have a Sinus Headache
How do you know if your headache is sinus-related or a different type of headache? While all headaches cause pain and discomfort in the head region, there are a few distinct symptoms that indicate you might be suffering from a sinus headache.
- A sensation of fullness or pressure in the brown, cheeks, or forehead
- Pain in the sinus areas
- The pain gets worse when you lie down or lean over
- Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
- Thick, discolored mucus coming from the nose
- Symptoms develop during or after an upper respiratory infection
- Upper teeth feel achy and tender
If your sinus headache symptoms are associated with nausea or vomiting, then it might actually be a migraine. Additionally, migraines are often identified because of sensitivity to bright lights or loud noises.
One other way to distinguish between a migraine or sinus headache is the length of time that the headache lasts. Most migraines only last a few hours – and no more than a day or two. On the other hand, sinus headaches can last for days or weeks when left untreated.
At-Home Remedies to Relieve a Sinus Headache
If you are noticing the symptoms of a sinus headache, then start with a few at-home remedies to see if you can alleviate these symptoms.
- Warm Compress: Apply a warm washcloth or a warm rice pack to the affected areas of the face. Not only can the heat help to reduce pain symptoms, but it can also help to alleviate congestion that is causing the pressure and pain.
- Take Over the Counter Medication: Certain medications, such as decongestants, can help to manage mucus and reduce swelling in the sinus area. This medication improves mucus drainage which reduces pressure and backup in the sinuses.
- Thin Mucus with Saline Spray: If the mucus is too thick, then it can’t drain effectively. An over-the-counter spray can be beneficial to thin the mucus so it can drain.
- Humidifier: Try adding moisture into the air using a humidifier. Certain humidifiers have the option to add eucalyptus or medicated water that helps to open the sinuses.
- Inhale Steam: A long, hot shower can help to clear the sinuses. Block the drain and add a few drops of peppermint and/or eucalyptus essential oil. You can also take a bath or inhale steam from boiling water. Caution: be careful to avoid burning yourself with the steam!
Medical Treatments for Sinus Infections
If the symptoms continue and you do not find relief with at-home remedies, it might be time to talk to a doctor about your symptoms. Often, sinus headaches happen because of sinus infections, and the cause of sinus infections can be bacteria, viruses, or fungi.
When a bacterial infection is causing the sinus infection, then taking an antibiotic can be a helpful way to clear up the infection and start feeling better. Additionally, your ENT might recommend other medications such as decongestants (reduce swelling), antihistamines (treat allergies), pain relievers (alleviate pain), or steroids (decrease inflammation).
Should You See an ENT Specialist for a Sinus Headache?
There are various reasons why you might choose to schedule a consultation with an ENT for sinus headaches.
- The symptoms last longer than 10 days.
- You have recurring sinus headaches throughout the year.
- Over the counter pain medicine isn’t effective for relieving the pain.
- You are missing work or school because the headaches are interfering.
Not only can an ENT help with immediate treatment to alleviate a sinus headache, but they also have diagnostic processes to determine if there are other underlying causes that are increasing your risk of sinus infections and sinus headaches.
For example, an ear, nose, and throat specialist might be able to reduce chronic sinus issues by diagnosing and treating common issues such as a deviated septum or nasal polyps.
Preventing Sinus Headaches in the Future
If you know that you have a higher risk for sinus headaches, then it makes sense to implement prevention techniques to minimize the likelihood of developing another headache.
- Avoid Triggers: Start paying attention to the conditions that increase the likelihood of a sinus headache. For example, you might notice that you have more sinus headaches during the spring months when you are experiencing seasonal allergies. Treating the allergies with medication can help to reduce the risk of developing sinus headaches.
- Healthy Lifestyle: Be proactive about healthy eating and exercise to keep the immune system strong. A healthy immune system can fight potential pathogens that might lead to sinus infections and headaches.
- Nasal Sprays or Rinses: Some people find it helpful to use saline sprays or nasal rinses to clean out the sinuses, helping to clear congestion and prevent infections.
Call an ENT Sinus Specialist
You don’t need to live with recurring sinus pain and pressure. If you are having these symptoms on an ongoing basis, then it’s time to schedule an appointment with an experienced ENT.
Do you live in the Collin County or Dallas area? Reach out to our team at Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat for diagnosis and treatment. We provide comprehensive services in our two local offices: Frisco, TX, and Plano, TX. Access the online form when you are ready to book an appointment or call us at (972) 596-4005.