Sinus headaches can cause a pounding headache. A feeling of a stuffed-up head and post nasal drip. Sinus pain can be worsened during the allergy season as germs and mucus make their way into your sinus cavities.
When an allergy, cold or flu causes tissues to swell and fill with mucus, the tiny hairs inside our nose, called cilia, are unable to move thick mucus out and sinuses become clogged. Trapped air creates painful pressure and trapped mucus provides safe have for infection or sinusitis.
Symptoms of Sinus Congestion are:
- sinus headache
- postnasal drip
- facial pressure or pain
- congestion or stuffy nose
- thick, yellow-green nasal discharge
- low-grade fever
- pain in the upper teeth
Prevention, Moisture and Heat:
- Apply a warm, moist washcloth to face, eyes and nose, several times a day to soften mucus and warm air inside your sinuses, which will relieve pressure
- Use a saltwater rinse for the inside of your nose, like a Neti-Pot or a saline flush. Mixing a concentrated salt water and baking soda helps the nose work better and move mucus out faster. Buy a nasal wash kit and premixed solution at a pharmacy, or make your own.
- Drink lots of fluids to keep your body and sinuses hydrated; avoid alcohol and caffeine which can have a drying effect.
- Inhale steam to moisten and soften mucus. Do this in the shower or create a mini-sauna by draping a towel over your head and leaning over a bowl of hot water.
- Keep nasal passages moist with saline (saltwater) sprays. The salt helps match the water to your body’s natural pH.
- Use a cool mist humidifier in your bedroom while sleeping. Clean the humidifier regularly.
- Stay away from smoke and air pollution which can damage cilia and make them unable to clear mucus efficiently.
- OTC decongestants relieve nasal swelling and pressure, but do not treat inflammation. Examples are sudafed or phenylephrine.
- Nonprescription nasal decongestants can reduce swelling in the nasal passages. Never use them for more than 3-5 days because long term use can be addicting. Afrin or oxymetazoline is a prime example.
- Nasal steroid sprays can reduce inflammation and swelling, but it may take a few days to reach a full effect. Flonase, Nasonex, Nasocort or Rhinocort can be used.
- Steroid pills or injections can be given as treatment to relieve severe sinus inflammation caused by allergies, bacteria or viruses. Examples are medrol dose pack or prednisone.
- If you are prescribed an antibiotic, take it for the full duration prescribed. It is recommended to see a doctor if symptoms last 7-10 days or longer. Otherwise many sinus headaches do not necessarily mean you have an infection requiring a doctor’s care or prescription medication. Many cases can clear up on their own within a week especially if you follow the self help treatments.
If sinus symptoms last months, or they are seasonal, it could be allergies causing the symptoms and it is worth undergoing testing and treatment for allergies.