March Blog: Spring on the Horizon in E TN Equals Sinus Headache

I have a sinus headache. In reality, just because you have pain in your sinus area doesn’t mean that you have a sinus problem. But real sinus disorders, also called sinusitis, are worth learning about so you can recognize and avoid them, or get the care you need if you really do have one. The American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (AAO–HNS) says that a headache—especially one with pain and pressure around the eyes, across the cheeks and forehead—is one of the key symptoms of sinusitis. In addition to a headache, sinusitis sufferers may experience the following: an achy feeling in the upper teeth; fever and chills; facial swelling; nasal stuffiness; yellow or green nasal discharge; diminished sense of smell; cough; fatigue; ear fullness/clogging; or bad breath or taste in the mouth

However, the AAO–HNS says that some cases of sinusitis do not include the upper respiratory symptoms, which means that you may still have sinus trouble when it appears to be a tension or migraine headache. Sinus headaches are related to the swelling of the membranes that line the sinuses (areas adjacent to the nasal passages). The pain occurs when air, pus, and mucus become trapped in the sinuses. A sinus headache often worsens if you bend forward or lie down. 

When Should You See a Doctor for a Sinus Infection?

Sinusitis can be as minor as the sniffles, or in rare cases as serious as a life-threatening infection. Most sinus discomfort and trouble can be alleviated with home care, but if you have an underlying medical condition that makes it harder for you to fight infection, or an underlying lung disease, call your doctor right away when you notice sinus infection symptoms. If you’re a normally healthy person whose cold symptoms persist for more than seven to 10 days, you may have a sinus infection. If you experience facial pain, fever, severe cough, or ear or throat discomfort, visit your doctor for an examination.

 Sinus Headache Pain The key to relieving the symptoms of a sinus headache, according to the AAO–HNS, is to reduce sinus swelling and inflammation and to facilitate mucous drainage from the sinuses. Here are a couple steps you can take to alleviate the pain of a sinus headache:

Breathe moist air—Breathe in the moist air from a steam vaporizer or cool-mist humidifier, from a basin of hot water, or from a hot shower.
Alternate hot and cold compresses—Place a hot compress across your sinuses for three minutes and then a cold compress for 30 seconds. Repeat this procedure three times per treatment two to six times a day.
Nasal irrigation—Over-the-counter nasal rinse products will wash away mucus and allergy-creating particles and irritants. Sinus membranes will shrink and drainage will increase. Normal mucosa will fight infections and allergies better and will reduce symptoms.
Decongestants—Headaches caused by allergies can be treated with over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines.