Sinus pain combines the familiar symptoms of a cold, like a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat and a cough, with pain and tenderness in the face.
The sinuses are actually four pairs of air-filled cavities in your head. They’re found behind the forehead, inside each cheekbone, at either side of the bridge of the nose and behind the eyes. Each sinus opens into the nose and is connected to the nasal passage. Their role is to ensure the air coming in through the nose is at the right temperature and has the right water content before it goes to your lungs. The sinuses also produce mucus that drains through the nose.
Unfortunately, when you have a cold or are suffering from allergies or hay fever, the inflamed nasal passages can cause congestion (stuffy nose). When these passages become blocked, bacteria and germs can grow inside the sinuses. This can result in facial pain that feels worse when you lean forward, headache, a feeling of pressure inside the face and even toothache.
To ease sinus congestion and pain, there are a few things you can do:
Medication can also help. Pain relievers, such as paracetamol or non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help to relieve sinus pain and headaches. Decongestants can ease a blocked nose and come in a number of forms such as drops, nasal sprays, tablets and powders that can be made into hot drinks. Care needs to be taken with over-the-counter nasal spray decongestants as they can be helpful at first but may make the problem worse if used for more than 3-5 days. Some products are available that combine analgesics with decongestants to tackle sinus pain on both fronts. As with all medications, it’s important to only use them as recommended, so always read the label.
For most people, sinus pain will ease once the congestion has cleared up. If cold symptoms and sinus pain continue for 10 days or more, or the symptoms become worse within 10 days of the cold getting better, it is important to see a doctor.
The main thing is not to worry. Although sinus pain is uncomfortable, it can be just a regular symptom of the common cold and, like colds, can be easily brought under control.