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Is it a Sinus Headache?

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Is it a Sinus Headache?

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Do you think you have a sinus headache that won’t just go away after several treatments? Well, think twice. You could be suffering from a migraine without knowing.

A Sinus Allergy & Migraine study found that 90 percent of people with a sinus headache were actually suffering from a migraine. Those who are experiencing symptoms of sinus infection, such as pain and nasal congestion, aren’t necessarily suffering from a headache as a result of sinusitis.

Types of Headaches

Let’s first discuss the variety of headaches that patients can suffer from. There are about 150 types of headaches. The ones we have discussed below are the most common types.

Tension Headaches – This is perhaps the most common type, affecting up to 90 percent of people at some point during their life.  The prevalent triggers of tension headaches are unidentified depression, stress and muscle tightness. A common symptom includes mild pain in the head or neck that comes and goes.

Allergy Headaches – This type is general in nature and is mainly characterized by nasal congestion and watery eyes. It is caused by most seasonal allergens and not food allergens. Most allergy headaches can be treated effectively with antihistamines.

Cluster Headaches – perhaps the least common type of a headache, cluster headaches, are characterized by agonizing pain around the eyes and will occur in cycles. It could be caused by an excessive intake of alcohol or excess smoking.  

Migraine Headache –Migraines are characterized by serious throbbing or pounding in the head from time to time and considered to be more severe than a sinus headache. A migraine could be a result of sensitivity to light or be one-sided. In extreme cases, it can be accompanied by vomiting, nausea, stomach upset, and loss of appetite.

How to Tell You Are Suffering from a Sinus Headache

When the sinuses in your head become inflamed, normal drainage of mucus is affected. The result is an accumulation of mucus inside the sinuses, which attracts bacteria and causes infection– hence the headache. A certain percentage of sinus headaches are caused by seasonal allergies.

Some common symptoms of sinus headaches include:

  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Throbbing and pain on the face and behind the eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Watery eyes
  • Yellow green nasal discharge


In addition, sinus pains tend to be worse in the cool mornings or when one experiences extreme temperature changes.

Sinus Headaches vs. Migraines

The main distinction between a sinus headache and migraines is found in symptoms.

While a runny nose is common in both sinus headaches and migraines, the thick, pus-like, yellowish-green discharge is only evident in sinus headaches and not in migraines.

Secondly, swollen lymph nodes and fever are also characteristics in sinus headaches and not migraines. Symptoms that manifest during a migraine that you will not find in sinus headaches include vomiting, nausea, and sensitivity to light.

Sinus Headache Treatment

Once you have confirmed that you are suffering from a sinus headache, you can self-treat it using the following remedies:

  • Take plenty of fluids and rest.
  • Take antihistamines and nasal decongestants. 
  • Use over-the-counter antibiotics. 


If there is no sign of improvement after a week self-treatment, then it is time to see your doctor for further intervention. Depending on the diagnosis, they may prescribe some effective antibiotics, antihistamines, or corticosteroid spray. In rare cases of a chronic sinus condition, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Posted by CHAPEL HILL EAR, NOSE AND THROAT / July 26, 2017