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What are sinus headaches?

What Is a Sinus Headache? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What are sinuses and sinus headaches?

Sinuses are air-filled cavities (spaces) located in the forehead, cheekbones, and behind the bridge of the nose. The sinuses produce a thin mucus that drains out of the channels of the nose. When a sinus becomes inflamed, usually as the result of allergies or an infection, the inflammation will prevent the outflow of mucus and cause a pain similar to that of a headache.

What are the symptoms of sinus headaches?

Sinus headaches are associated with a deep and constant pain in the cheekbones, forehead or bridge of the nose. The pain usually intensifies with sudden head movement or straining. The pain is usually accompanied by other sinus symptoms, such as nasal discharge, feeling of fullness in the ears, fever, facial swelling, sinus pressure and sinus congestion.

Whether your headache symptoms can actually be attributed to the sinuses will need to be determined by your doctor. If your sinus headache is caused by a sinus blockage, such as an infection, you will likely have a fever.

How are sinus headaches treated?

Sinus headaches treatment is usually directed toward sinus headache pain relief and treating the infection. Treatment might include antibiotics for the infection, as well as a short period of pain and fever reliever (such as acetaminophen, aspirin), decongestants (such as phenylephrine, a vasoconstrictor to decrease nasal congestion), or antihistamines to treat the sinus headache symptoms and provide sinus headache relief.

Analgesics can relieve headache pain while the nasal decongestants relieve sinus congestion and pressure, help clear nasal passages, and shrink swollen membranes.

If the sinus headache pain continues after using pain-relievers, corticosteroids may be prescribed to further decrease the inflammation. When an allergen is causing the sinus flare-ups, preventive allergy therapy is often needed. If you have questions or concerns about your sinus headache pain and how to treat sinus headaches, consult your doctor. Medication should be used as directed.

Can allergies cause sinus headaches?

An allergy or allergic response is generally not a direct cause of a sinus headache, but can contribute to its occurrence. Allergies cause symptoms such as sinus congestion, which can lead to headache pain. If you have allergies, the treatment for your allergy can relieve your allergy symptoms, but it may not help with your headache pain. The two conditions often must be treated separately.

Sinus headaches are most likely to occur as a result of allergies, when grass, pollen, ragweed counts are high, or following exposure to other allergens. However, headache specialists tend to agree that allergies are usually not the cause of severe or recurrent headaches such as tension headaches or migraines. You should see a doctor to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment. Medication should be used as directed.

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Helpful Resources

National Headache Foundation

U.S. National Institute of Health

U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention


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