Symptoms and Signs of Sinus Headache

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/18/2022

Doctor's Notes on Sinus Headache

A sinus headache results from increased pressure within the sinuses, which are spaces that develop from the nasal passages in the skull and help with air humidification and mucus secretion. When there is inflammation present (sinusitis), the mucus secreted in these spaces may not be able to drain properly, leading to a backup of pressure and causing a headache. Swelling of the lining tissues of the sinuses also contributes to the increase in pressure. Common causes of sinus inflammation include allergies or infections such as colds.

Signs and symptoms of a sinus headache include head and facial pain that often worsens with bending down or straining. Associated symptoms can include:

  • pain in the forehead, temples, or cheeks;
  • nasal congestion or runny nose;
  • post-nasal drip, and 
  • cough

What Is the Treatment for Sinus Headaches?

Treatment for sinus headaches can involve both at-home measures and medications. Treatments may include:

  • Application of warm compresses to the face
  • Saline nasal sprays or drops
  • Use of vaporizers to create a warm, moist environment
  • Decongestant medications
  • Antihistamines to decrease allergy symptoms
  • Antibiotics or antifungal medications for certain infections
  • Steroid medications to reduce inflammation
  • Medications for pain control

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.