Sinus Headache: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and More

Sinus Headache

Sinus headache is caused by congestion in the sinus passages behind your eyes, nose, cheeks and forehead. This causes pain and pressure. It might happen on one side or both of your head.

Since the term “sinus headache” was too broad, the International Classification of Headache Disorders no longer employs it. However, it is still commonly used by patients and doctors.

The symptoms of sinus headache can be similar to those of other headache types, but true sinus headaches are extremely infrequent. When you have a sinus headache, you’re probably suffering from sinusitis, which is an infection of the sinuses.

Allergies can cause sinus headaches that appear occasionally, or you may have sinus headaches more often if your sinuses are irritated. You can treat sinus headaches with herbal remedies, over-the-counter (OTC) treatments and prescription medications.

Read: Chronic Tension Headache

Sinuses in head

Hollow spaces located in the skull around the eyes and nose are called paranasal sinuses. They provide weight reduction, resonance, protection from trauma, and temperature control inside your nose.

Besides producing mucus, the sinuses also trap bacteria, viruses, and allergens, protecting your entire body from inhaling them. Mucus particles trapped inside too much mucus can cause sinusitis or sinus infections.

It is easy for the sinuses to get infected. You have a similar lining in your nose and sinuses, so infection in one area can easily spread to the other.

What are the symptoms of sinus headache?

There are symptoms of inflamed sinuses accompanying sinus headaches. Some of these symptoms are:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Yellow or green nasal discharge
  • Poor sense of smell
  • Uneasiness in your forehead
  • Exacerbating pain on bending forward
  • Fever

Read: Cluster Headaches

How do you feel when you have sinus pressure?

There is pain or pressure not only in the head but throughout the sinuses. The site of the pain depends on the affected sinuses.

Although pressure often affects the scalp, eyes, nose, and cheeks, it can also extend upward to the teeth and backward to the back of the head. People often feel more sensitive in these areas.

Sinus headaches can also cause fatigue or pain in your upper jaw. There can be a feeling of swelling and redness in the cheeks, nose or forehead.

What causes sinus headaches?

Several things can lead to sinusitis or cause symptoms of it.


Viral infections usually cause sinus headaches. Occasionally, bacteria or fungi may be to blame for sinus infections. The sinuses become inflamed during a sinus infection, and more mucus is produced by the body. This can cause sinus headaches on its own.

Bacteria can become infected in the sinuses if they start growing inside them. The bacteria create gases. These gases cause sinus pressure.

Here are some of the symptoms of sinusitis:

  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Blown nose with thick mucus
  • Postnasal drip – throat mucus
  • Tooth pain
  • Diminished sense of smell
  • Unpleasant breath

An individual suffering from a bacterial infection may also experience a fever.

Read: Chronic Migraine


Nasal headaches can also be caused by allergies, particularly hay fever. Due to allergies, the sinuses can become blocked or inflamed. Other symptoms of allergies include:

  • Sneezing
  • Red or watery eyes
  • Itchiness in the mouth or throat
  • Itchy eyes
  • Nasal congestion

Structural differences

When mucus is unable to drain from the nose and sinuses properly, people may suffer from blockages and infections. Here are a few examples:

  • Nasal polyps: These are largely painless, growing inside the nose. If they grow large enough, they may cause blockages.
  • Deviated septum: A non-symmetrical septum, which separates the nose into two cavities, causes this problem. In addition, one nasal passage can be more narrow than the other, making it more likely for the smaller side to be congested.
  • Enlarged adenoids: An adenoid is a small piece of tissue that is found behind the nose. Overly large sinuses make it difficult for the sinuses to drain. Adenoids can cause chronic sinusitis in children since they do not yet possess fully developed sinuses.
  • Dental issues: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry reported that dental problems are the root cause of nearly 30% of chronic sinusitis cases affecting both maxillary sinuses, which are located in the cheeks. A blockage in the sinuses, for example, can be caused if the roots of the upper teeth extend into the sinuses.

What are the risk factors for sinus headache?

Sinus headaches have the same risk factors as sinus infections. The risk of contracting them may vary depending on the person’s habits or health issues. Here are some of them:

  • Differences in structure, such as a deviated septum or nasal polyps
  • Chemotherapy can weaken your immune system
  • Symptoms include mucus buildup in the respiratory system, which can cause cystic fibrosis
  • Allergy history
  • Toxin exposure through the nose, such as tobacco smoke and cocaine
  • Nasal decongestant overuse

Read: Hemicrania Continua

Treatments and relief

Most doctors encourage patients to let sinus infections clear up on their own. Typically, adults with acute sinusitis should not receive medical treatment for the condition unless they have certain symptoms, such as fever, severe pain, or an infection that lasts longer than seven days.

Home remedies

It might be beneficial to thin out your sinuses if you have a sinus headache. Use a humidifier or saline solution to clear your sinuses. You can also breathe steam. The application of a warm, wet washcloth may relieve pressure and promote drainage in the sinuses.

Over the counter (OTC) options

Doctors may prescribe some over-the-counter medications to help manage symptoms, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation. But these drugs don’t solve your pain issue because they don’t address the underlying cause of the inflammation.

The pain you feel from a sinus headache can be dulled by taking analgesics such as ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol). These medicines may also help treat other symptoms, such as aching jaws or fevers. Your doctor should be consulted if your headache becomes worse over several days or if it becomes chronic.

Congestion can be relieved temporarily with decongestants like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), which is not an effective sinus decongestant. It is possible to experience rebound congestion after 3 days after using decongestants such as oxymetazoline (Afrin). Consult your doctor if your sinuses are blocked for more than 3 days before taking a decongestant.

Read: Thunderclap Headaches

Prescription medications

You may be prescribed antihistamines, mucolytics (meds that remove mucus) and decongestants if you have a sinus infection that is causing your sinus headache. A bacterial infection will not cause sinusitis to worsen, so your doctor won’t prescribe antibiotics.

You may need antihistamines or corticosteroids if allergies are responsible for your headaches.

Alternative treatments

You might be able to relieve sinus headaches with alternative treatments. There is some evidence that pineapple juice contains bromelain, a mixture of enzymes that may thin nasal secretions. The stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) may also alleviate symptoms of long-standing rhinitis, but further studies are needed.

This treatment method won’t cure or provide immediate relief from a serious sinus infection.

Sinus headache vs. migraine

The American Migraine Foundation states that people mistake sinus headaches for migraines in 50 percent of the cases. 90% of people who think they have sinus headaches are actually dealing with migraines.

An individual with migraine may experience sinusitis-like symptoms such as a runny nose and congestion. Trigeminal headaches result in pain in the sinus passages, which interact with the trigeminal nerve. Some migraine sufferers may believe that the sinuses are the cause of the pain.

It is possible that you are experiencing a migraine if you don’t have any symptoms necessary to diagnose a sinus headache. Migraine treatment is different from sinus headache treatment. There are specific migraine symptoms, such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Light and sound sensitivity

It’s likely you’re experiencing migraine symptoms and not a sinus headache if you experience migraine symptoms.

Read: Tension Headaches

Allergies and Sinus Headaches

Allergic reactions can cause sinus headaches, have you heard? It’s not as simple as that. Your head may hurt if you have allergies, which can cause sinus congestion. Allergy treatment can ease congestion caused by allergies, but it won’t relieve headache pain. You must treat each condition separately. Consult your physician to ensure you receive the right treatment.

What is the best way to prevent sinus headaches?

You may require prescription medication to manage sinusitis or seasonal allergies if you experience recurrent headaches. Avoiding allergens and increasing your aerobic activity might help reduce the frequency of headaches if you follow a healthy lifestyle.

It might be necessary to undergo sinus surgery, such as a balloon sinuplasty, to stop getting sinus headaches in cases of chronic sinusitis.

Complications of sinus headaches

Swelling and inflammation can occur in rare cases around the eye area due to complications. Your vision may even be affected.

The following symptoms may indicate a high fever: persistent fever, discolored nasal discharge, rattling in the chest, or difficulty breathing. Consult your doctor for treatment. Sinus headaches are generally harmless, but you should determine what’s causing them.

Read: Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria


When a sinus blockage or pressure causes pain, it’s called a sinus headache. Perhaps you will experience pain around your forehead, the bridge of your nose, or your cheeks. Viral infections are often responsible for this. The cause can also be bacteria, fungi, or allergies.

Sinus infections usually resolve on their own after a while. Some people may take OTC medications to relieve their symptoms. Chronic sinusitis may result from persistent allergies, structural variations inside the nose or sinuses, or a compromised immune system. Some people mistake sinus headaches for migraines.

If sinus headaches do not improve within 10 days or keep returning, a person should consult their physician.

One thought on “Sinus Headache: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and More

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