What Can I Do
While you wait for your infection to run its course, you can take steps at home to feel better.
Look into nasal sprays. Store-bought saline nasal spray loosens up mucus, temporarily clearing it from your nasal passages. A steroid nasal spray like fluticasone may help tame inflammation, especially if you have underlying allergies. Unsure about using a steroid? Follow package directions and go to your HCP with questions.
Be wary of decongestant nasal sprays, like oxymetazoline . Using them for longer than three days could cause rebound symptoms persistent stuffiness eased only by the spray itself. Dryness and addiction are also possibilities.
Embrace sinus rinses like the neti pot. Many sinus infection veterans swear by nasal irrigation systems, such as plastic squeeze bottles or teakettle-shaped neti pots. These devices are filled with a sterile saline solution and used to flush snot from your sinuses.
Neti pots and their ilk are widely available and typically safe, as long as you handle them properly. Dont use water directly from your tap. Instead use distilled water, a sterile saline solution or water that has been boiled and then cooled.
Try over-the-counter medicines. Experts recommend analgesics including acetaminophen , ibuprofen and aspirin to ease pain, as well as decongestants like pseudoephedrine to alleviate the pressure of congestion.
Finally, you may want to avoid flying or scuba diving, since either can aggravate sinus pain.
Prevention Of Sinus Infection
A sinus infection is not exactly contagious. But depending on what caused a personâs inflammation, other people may also develop the illness. For example, the common cold and flu are both contagious conditions that can lead to a sinus infection.
Taking steps to reduce your risk of contracting viral infections can help prevent sinus infections. These include:
- Practice good hygiene, such as by washing your hands often and covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze
- Get the recommended vaccinations, such as the flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine
- Keep your distance from people who have upper respiratory infections
- Take steps to reduce your stress, which affects your immune system
- Keep your immune system healthy, such as by eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables
Other ways to reduce your risk of getting a sinus infection include:
- Dont smoke cigarettes and try to avoid inhaling secondhand smoke
- Minimize your exposure to allergens and pollutants, such as by keeping your home windows closed and using a HEPA air conditioner filter, driving with your external vents closed and air conditioner on, and avoiding activities that expose you to pollen like lawn mowing and leaf blowing
- Moisten the air at home with a humidifier and avoid dry environments
- Inhale steam or use a saline nasal spray regularly
- Drink lots of water
- Irrigate your nasal passages regularly
What A Sinus Headache Feels Like
Headache pain associated with pressure in the facial area is the most common sign that you are experiencing a sinus headache. Not only do you have a headache, but you also notice pain symptoms in the sinus areas specifically.
The location of this sinus pain depends on the particular sinuses that are affected. Sinus cavities are located in the upper cheek area, behind the eyes, and in the forehead behind and above the eyebrows
Not only do you have pain and pressure in these areas, but you will likely notice that the sinuses are sensitive to the touch. Sometimes the pain radiates into other parts of the face, including the back of the head. Patients also experience dental pain at times.
Pay attention to how your jaw feels because you might notice an aching sensation or a sense of fatigue.
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Can I Prevent Sinusitis
There is no sure-fire way to prevent sinusitis. But there are some things that might help.
- Donât smoke, and avoid other people’s smoke.
- Wash your hands often, especially during cold and flu season, and try not to touch your face.
- Stay away from things you know youâre allergic to. Talk to your doctor to see if you need prescription medicines, allergy shots, or other forms of immunotherapy.
If your sinus problems keep coming back, ask your doctor about the pros and cons of surgery to clean and drain the sinuses.
Treatments For Sinus Infections Other Than Antibiotics
#1: Saline Nasal Wash
Saline nasal wash can be a great way to thin out the mucous in the sinuses enough to clear out the blockage. I recommend starting this early on in the course of the illness to prevent the infection from worsening.
You can even make this at home using 2 cups of water and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I would add a 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of baking soda to prevent burning that can occur with use. There are also plenty of over the counter saline nasal sprays that you can purchase. You can use this 4-6 times per day.
Vaporizers are great because they can also thin out the mucous and make you feel a lot better. An easy home remedy, steam is probably the best way to use this treatment. Beware if you are an asthmatic as the steam could cause worsening of the asthma symptoms.
#3: Steroid Nasal Spray
Steroid nasal sprays such as Flonase have been my go to remedy recently and the great news is that they are now over the counter. The general recommendation is to use 1-2 sprays per nostril daily.
But I have found great relief using 2 sprays in each nostril twice daily. At these higher doses it is important to remember that you should use this short term, no more than 5-7 days.
These medications can significantly reduce inflammation allowing the congestion blockage to clear and significantly alleviate symptoms.
Guaifenesin such as Mucinex can certainly break up the mucous, allowing the congestion to clear more quickly.
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Can A Sinus Infection Last Longer Than A Cold
4. Stuffy nose that lasts longer. A stuffy nose is a classic symptom of a sinus infection and a cold, but it usually lasts longer when its due to sinusitis. This symptom is mainly due to inflamed blood vessels in the sinuses.
Can you have a sinus infection without nasal congestion?
Certainly. There is a strict definition of sinus infection, but nasal congestion is only one of the defining characteristics. As long as you have the others, you can still get sinusitis. Reference EPOS12
Can a sinus infection be a bacterial infection?
Inflammation of the sinuses can cause a runny nose, production of greenish and yellowish mucus, and even pain. But these symptoms do not mean that you have a bacterial sinus infection. Certainly a bacterial sinus infection would benefit from an antibiotic.
Spice Up Your Diet To Ease Sinus Pressure
Many people find that spicy food like peppers or hot mustard opens up their nasal passages and gives them some relief from sinus pain. There is good evidence that capsaicin, which is the active ingredient found in chile peppers, is effective in relieving some types of pain, says Das. Capsaicin preparations have been investigated for the treatment of some facial pain syndromes and of rhinitis with promising results. But if you have the taste for them, you can try spicy foods to help with sinus discomfort.
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Contact Doctor During Office Hours
- Sinus pain lasts more than 24 hours, after using nasal washes
- Thick yellow or green pus draining from nose and not improved by nasal washes. Exception: yellow or green tinged secretions are normal.
- Sinus congestion and fullness lasts more than 14 days
- Nasal discharge lasts more than 2 weeks
- You have other questions or concerns
When To Talk With A Doctor
Recurring headaches and suspected acute sinusitis should always be evaluated by a doctor. Experts believe that most people who self-diagnose sinusitis are actually experiencing migraines. Getting the correct diagnosis is crucial to successful treatment.
Sinus pain and pressure that doesnt improve after 7 days despite treatment could mean that youre being treated for the wrong condition, especially if you dont experience other sinus symptoms.
You should also see your doctor if your headaches are accompanied by symptoms typically experienced with migraine attacks.
You dont have to be experiencing sharp head pain in order to have a migraine. Accompanying nausea, vision changes, and light sensitivity could mean you have a migraine, and not a sinus headache.
For migraine treatment, you can start with your primary care physician, and if needed you may be referred to a headache specialist, possibly a neurologist or ear, nose, and throat doctor.
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How Do You Treat A Sinus Infection
When it comes to colds and regular, short-term, one-off sinus infections, you should be okay with over-the-counter medication coupled with plenty of rest and relaxation. As we mentioned earlier, however, if you have a bacterial sinus infection, you may need antibiotics.
Its important to remember that untreated sinus infections can cause more issues later down the line. These issues can negatively impact your sense of smell, eyesight, and even your brain. In other words, if your sinus infection does last more than 7-10 days, dont hesitate to visit your doctor. Its worth it in the long run.
However, one-time sinus infections vs. frequent, unrelenting sinus infections are what differentiates acute and chronic sinusitis.
Chronic sinusitis can last a few months and become a recurring theme in your life. If this is the case, you could end up requiring professional treatment such as balloon sinuplasty.
Balloon sinuplasty is a minimally-invasive procedure that takes less than 20 minutes. During this procedure, a tiny, endoscopic is inflated within your nasal passage. This process opens up your passages and allows for better drainage and long-lasting relief from sinusitis complications.
Avoid Sinus Pain Triggers
One of the most important things to avoid is over-the-counter nasal decongestant sprays. They may give some fast relief, but after a few days they make sinus pressure and nasal congestion much worse, warns Das. Some other things you can do to prevent sinus pain include avoiding alcohol, which can aggravate sinus pain and congestion cleaning your humidifier to avoid fungal allergies washing your bedding in hot water to decrease allergy exposure and avoiding swimming, diving, or flying when you have sinusitis, a common cold, or nasal allergy.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Sinusitis
You have acute sinusitis when you have had cloudy or colored drainage from your nose for up to four weeks, plus one or more of the following symptoms:
- Stuffy, congested, or blocked nose
- Pain, pressure, or fullness in the face, head, or around the eyes
- Long-lasting cold symptoms
- Symptoms that do not improve within 10 days of getting sick, or initially get better then worsen again
You might have chronic sinusitis if you have at least two of the four symptoms note below for at least 12 weeks. An ENT specialist would also need to see polyps, pus, or thickened mucous in nose, or get a CT scan, to fully diagnose chronic sinusitis. Possible symptoms include:
- Stuff congested, or blocked nose
- Pain, pressure or fullness in the face, head or around the eyes
- Thickened nasal drainage
Get The Right Treatment
The result is the same: Your head hurts. Does it really matter why? Yes, because the diagnosis directs the treatment.
For a sinus headache, the focus is on draining the fluid from the mucus-filled spaces behind your cheeks to relieve the pressure and pain, as well as cooling the inflammation. Typically, youll take , antihistamines, or antibiotics, or a combination of these medicines. This wouldnt help, and may even be harmful, for someone with a migraine.
Scientists think migraines happen because of a series of changes in your brain stem, nerve cells, and brain chemicals. No one knows exactly why they start, but they can be triggered by certain foods, activities, or other conditions.
Treatment for migraine can include over-the-counter pain relievers as well as prescription drugs that are also used to treat seizure disorders, depression, and heart conditions. Other remedies might come as pills, shots, and nasal sprays.
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Cold Vs Viral Sinus Infection Vs Bacterial Sinus Infection
Many cold symptoms, flu symptoms, and sinus infection symptoms overlap with each other. To make matters more complicated, not all symptoms arent necessarily guaranteed. For example, even if you have a bacterial sinus infection, you may or may not have a fever, or you may or may not have a sore throat, etc.
However, its still worth knowing the differing symptoms between all these health issues, especially when it comes to fevers.
Are Sinus Infections Contagious
A sinus infection caused by a virus is contagious. When you sneeze or cough, the virus can travel in droplets of moisture through the air. If another person breathes in the virus, they might develop a cold that turns into a sinus infection. In order to limit the spread of sinus infections, remember to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. And wash your hands frequently to avoid leaving the virus on objects that you touch.
If your sinus infection is caused by a bacteria or fungus, its not contagious. But you should still wash your hands frequently and cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze.
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What Causes A Sinus Infection
A sinus infection can be caused by several different things including:
Seasonal allergies A deviated septum: The septum is the part of the nose that divides it into right and left nostrils. Some people have crooked or deviated septums, which makes them more susceptible to sinus infections. Nasal polyps Respiratory tract infections
Sinus infections may be acute or chronic .
When Is Face Pain An Emergency
If you experience facial pain that appears suddenly and radiates from the chest or the left arm, call 911 or your local emergency services immediately. This may be the sign of an impending heart attack.
Facial pain usually isnt a medical emergency, and you can often receive treatment at a regularly scheduled doctors appointment.
When visiting your doctor, make sure that you tell them:
- what part of your face is hurting
- how often you feel pain
- exactly where the pain is coming from
- what kind of pain you feel
- how long the pain lasts
- what relieves the pain
- any other symptoms experienced
Your doctor may order an imaging test, such as an X-ray or MRI scan to make a diagnosis. These imaging tests are useful in diagnosing problems within the bones, muscles, and tissue. Your doctor can also use an X-ray to check the sinuses.
Your doctor may take a blood sample to test for certain infections. This is a procedure with minimal pain that involves drawing blood from your arm.
If your symptoms reveal a possible eye condition or if your doctor is concerned you may be having heart problems, theyll order additional tests.
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When To Seek Medical Care
See a doctor if you have:
- Severe symptoms, such as severe headache or facial pain.
- Symptoms that get worse after improving.
- Symptoms lasting more than 10 days without getting better.
- Fever longer than 3-4 days.
You should also seek medical care if you have had multiple sinus infections in the past year.
This list is not all-inclusive. Please see a doctor for any symptom that is severe or concerning.
Other conditions can cause symptoms similar to a sinus infection, including:
- Seasonal allergies
How Do You Diagnose Sinus Headaches Caused By Migraines
Sinus headaches are most likely due to migraines or tension headaches. Migraines are diagnosed by symptoms, including the frequency and severity of symptoms, family history, and by physical exam. Migraines can also include nausea and vomiting. These episodes may be triggered by hormonal changes, lack of sleep, certain foods or alcohol or caffeine, stress, or environmental changes like weather, altitude changes, or allergens. Many patients with migraines have family members who also experience migraine headaches.
If you have unusual or severe symptoms, additional tests such as an MRI of the brain may be ordered to rule out more serious conditions that can cause headache pain, such as tumors or bleeding around the brain. If you have repeated episodes of sinus pain and pressure, a nasal endoscopy or imaging such as an MRI or CT scan can determine if sinus pain or pressure is due to a sinus infection or other sinus pathology. A normal sinus CT scan while you have symptoms could help rule out sinusitis, and determine if migraines, headaches, or other causes of facial pain and pressure are causing the sinus symptoms.
Other causes of facial pain and pressure can include temporomandibular joint syndrome, clenching or grinding your teeth, trigeminal nerve pain, temporal arteritis , dental infection, or other neurologic causes of facial pain.
Dr. Heidi Lightfoot
Dr. Heidi Lightfoot
May 13, 2020 Read Time 4 minutes
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How Do You Know If Youre Experiencing Sinus Pressure
Before we get into the weeds of answering the question, Can you have sinus pressure but no congestion? its important that we review the basics of sinus pressure.
A sinus headache is a symptom of built-up pressure in the sinus cavities typically causing maxillary sinus pain. This buildup occurs when your nasal passages mucus can no longer drain properly. In other words, sinus pressure and the sinus sinus headaches it causes are linked to congestion.Since pressure buildup can get intense, many people have confused sinus pressure for a migraine and vice versa. However, sinus pressure is typically accompanied with other symptoms and frequently occurs in tandem with certain conditions.
If youre experiencing any of the following situations, you may be feeling the effects of sinus pressure instead of a migriane:
- You are feeling throbbing around your eyes, forehead, and nose. You may also be feeling this throbbing in your cheeks, jaw, ears, teeth, or back of the head.
- You are currently suffering from allergies or have a sinus infection.
- You have thick mucus.
- You feel the majority of the pain in the morning.
Keep in mind that if you do have sinus pressure, this doesnt necessarily mean you have a sinus infection. Everyday, non-serious issues, including allergies and the common cold can lead to sinus pressure and sinus headaches.
If you are experiencing congestion, here are a few quick tips on how to get rid of sinus congestion.