How to Relieve a Sinus Headache
The winter months bring many types of illnesses; colds, flu, earaches, etc. but one of the worst is the sinus headache. A sinus headache occurs when the frontal sinus (an area inside your skull behind your eyes) becomes inflammed. It causes the tell-tale sign of pressure behind the eyes and a dull aching pain. You may also notice nasal stuffiness and the inability to breath properly. It is a truly miserable and painful experience. However, it is fairly easily treated with simple OTC medications, provided that you are aware of potential risks, prescription drug interactions and disease state interactions.
Firstly and most importantly, if you have high blood pressure or are on medication that is controlling your high blood pressure, you should NOT be using any pseudoephedrine based products, i.e. Sudafed and any “decongestant” combination product now sold behind-the-counter in pharmacies. The PSE (Pseudoephedrine) can and will increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Obviously, this is a problem if you are being treated for HBP. Unfortunately, PSE is the most common and effective medication for treatment of sinus headaches. Some doctors will still advise patients to try PSE but I highly recommend against it. The risks outweigh the benefits and there are other treatment options.
A safer, yet possibly not as effective treatment, is Phenylephrine (Sudafed PE). This chemical also works as a decongestant but does not increase blood pressure and/or heart rate and therefor is safe and effective for those with HBP and/or other cardiac issues. A few patients have told me that this product does not seem to work as well but in the absence of other options it is a viable choice. It is also available in many combination cough and cold products.
Unfortunately, in my research I have yet to find reputable “natural” cures or treatments for sinus headaches. Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be much information on viable and proven supplements and/or vitamins to limit the occurrence of sinus headaches. Since these headaches are mostly associated with a cold, the best natural treatment is prevention. I’ve found the use of a Netti pot to be beneficial. If used properly, meaning using clean, distilled, warm water in the pot and not tap water, these can decrease the symptoms of nasal congestion. The Netti pot is used to irrigate and wash the nasal passages to prevent a build up of debris and mucous that can lead to illness. It is a simple, safe (if used correctly) and inexpensive way to prevent nasal congestion and sinus headaches.
As always, prevention is the best medicine. However, sinus headaches can occur for a variety of reasons but are fairly easily treated. Please be aware of your current conditions and medication regimen before you self-medicate and always ask the advice of your friendly neighborhood pharmacist.