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Sinus Headaches (Sinusitis)

Introduction

I’m going to start you off with an interesting fact: 90% of people who go to the doc for a sinus headache actually get diagnosed with a migraine. Migraines can present with a runny nose and fatigue but will also be accompanied by nausea/vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound, a sinus headache will not. So if you're feeling sick and wearing sunglasses inside reading this article may be wasting your time and you may be better off linking to the migraine page.

For those who are pretty sure you have a sinus headache obviously feel free to read on. Sinus headaches are actually caused by sinusitis, the inflammation of the sinuses. This can be caused by the common cold or an allergy and is fairly easily treated with over the counter pain killers and decongestants.

Symptoms

  • Pain and pressure in cheeks, brow and forehead, which gets worst when bending over or lying down. The area will likely also feel sore to the touch
  • Stuffy nose
    • If your snot is a greenish/yellow colour it is probable you have an infection such as a cold
    • Clear snot suggests an irritant or allergy as the cause
  • Sore throat
  • Aches
  • Ache in upper teeth
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes - you have a bunch of lymph nodes but the more obvious ones are in your neck and armpits

See a Doc?

  • If your fever goes over 38°C
  • You have several sinusitis episodes - which may show that an abscess or nasal growth is causing the problem rather than a one off infection
  • Your symptoms last more than 10 days
  • Obvious visible swelling in face which may signal formation of an abscess

Causes

A sinus headache is caused by sinusitis, the inflammation of sinus ducts or the sinus lining. The sinuses are four paired air filled spaces in your nose, cheeks and forehead. They help to humidify and heat the air you breathe in order to help protect your body from airborn infections. They also secrete mucus otherwise known as snot or bogies (depending on your age/maturity).

If the sinus duct get inflamed then the snot can't drain as well. If the sinus linings get inflamed then they often produce more snot than usual. Too much snot building up in the sinus cavities leads to increased pressure within the sinuses and causes pain and often headaches. As the snot isn’t draining and is just sitting there it is an ideal place for bacteria or viruses to grow.

Sinusitis can be caused by a number of things

  • Airborne allergies (pollen, dust etc)/pollutants/irritants (like cigarette smoke)
  • Infections: bacteria, viruses or fungus
    • Such as a cold
  • Nasal growths - such as pollops (no, not rhino horns)
  • Asthma

 

Treatment

  • Over the counter decongestants and pain relief should be sufficient for mild cases of sinusitis caused by things like the common cold or allergies
  • Allergy medication (antihistamines) such Zirtek
  • Saline spray (a salt water mix) can help clear out sinus and work like a mild disinfectant
  • Hot and cold compress applied to the painful area may help reduce pain and discomfort
  • Avoid anything that will increase nasal pressure such as swimming
  • Fluids (prevent dehydration)
  • A doc may prescribe antibiotics in more aggressive bacterial cases
  • A doc may prescribe corticosteroid nasal spray in the cases of more severe allergies
  • In extreme cases surgery may be needed for blocked ducts of nasal cavities

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