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How can I treat a sinus headache?

Treating sinus headache depends on what's causing it. Sinus headaches are usually caused by allergies that lead to inflammation of the nose and sinus membranes and sometimes obstruction of the ostia. In such cases, the best treatment approach is to take a combination of over-the-counter (OTC) medications. First take an antihistamine to block the action of histamine (a substance released during an allergic reaction that causes mucosal swelling and mucus production). Then take guaifenesin (Mucinex is especially effective), which thins the mucus so that it drains more easily. Another option is a decongestant, which also reduces swelling and opens up the nasal and sinus passages. Such medications, or a steam bath, will usually do the trick.

Yellow or green discharge in the back of your throat means you have a bacterial infection, which warrants a call to your doctor. You'll need an antibiotic and a decongestant, but no antihistamine, to treat this condition. (Antihistamines dry out the mucous membranes and make drainage more difficult. If a decongestant does not offer sufficient relief, ask your doctor about a steroid nasal spray.) To confirm a diagnosis, your doctor may order some diagnostic tests, such as a computerized axial tomography (CT) scan. If you develop high fever, severe pain, or chills and uncontrollable shaking, contact your doctor immediately.
Steven A. Meyers, MD
Diagnostic Radiology
It is very important to determine whether your headaches are due to sinus disease or not. Many people believe their headaches are due to sinus disease when in fact they have migraine. Sinus infections can cause pain but there should also be purulent nasal discharge, fever, and abnormalities on examination or sinus imaging to make a diagnosis of sinus headache. Most sinus headaches do not require treatment other than simple analgesics.
Satish Govindaraj, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (Otolaryngology)

Over the counter medications can help salve sinus headaches. But chronic sinus headache may indicate a bigger problem, says Satish Govindaraj, MD, director of endoscopic skull base surgery at The Mount Sinai Medical Center.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.