Sinus Headache

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Quick GuideSinusitis Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Sinusitis Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

What is the treatment for a sinus headache?

The treatment goal for sinus headache is twofold. The first step is to decrease the inflammation within the sinuses to help them drain. Once drainage occurs and the pressure is relieved, the pain should subside. The second aspect is to make the patient comfortable while treating the underlying problem.

What home remedies help soothe the symptoms of a sinus headache?

There are remedies that can be used at home to help decrease congestion within the nasal passages, and include:

Drinking plenty of fluids to help keep the body hydrated.

Using humidified air and a salt water nasal spray to help with congestion

Neti pots are an alternative way to get humidity into the nasal passages and assist with drainage to prevent inflammation and infection. Remember to read the instructions and use distilled or properly boiled water. Deaths have been caused by using tap water in the Neti-pot.

What over-the-counter (OTC) medications treat a sinus headache?

OTC cold medications are available to help decrease inflammation within the sinuses and promote drainage. Brand name and generic drugs may be considered, but many contain pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), a medication that is related to adrenaline. People with high blood pressure, or who have heart conditions or are pregnant, should consult their health-care professional or pharmacist to assess their safety before taking these medications.

Some decongestant nasal sprays, other than salt water sprays (Ocean Nasal Spray), may be used, but only for a short period of time because of side effects and complications. For example, Afrin and similar nasal sprays should be used for no more than 3 days in a row; otherwise, rebound inflammation may occur. With rebound inflammation, when the spray medication is stopped, the linings of the nasal passages may swell and potentially cause even more drainage complications.

What prescription medications treat a sinus headache?

Headaches from can allergies can be relieved with a prescription for nasal steroids sprays unless there is a contraindication. This may be helpful along with nasal saline rinses to decrease inflammation within the nasal passages and treat or prevent sinusitis.

If a bacterial infection is suspected, the health-care professional may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection and at the same time make suggestions to treat the underlying inflammation. To establish the diagnosis of acute bacterial rhinosinusitis and the need for antibiotics, your doctor should confirm that symptoms of acute rhinosinusitis have been present for 10 days or are worsening. Symptoms should include pus-like (purulent) nasal frainage, nasal obstruction, facial pain or pressure. If the inflammation does not resolve before the antibiotic course is complete, the bacterial infection may recur.

What about surgery for sinus headache?

If the sinus headache persists, and repeated courses of treatment fail to relieve the sinusitis, surgery may be an option. Otorhinolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat [ENT] surgeons) may be able to widen the openings that allow the sinuses to drain and decrease the risk of recurrent inflammation that may obstruct the sinuses from draining.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/30/2015

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