Sinus pain can range in severity from a mild headache, to debilitating head and face pain, toothache and earache. Regardless of the underlying cause, sinus pain usually develops as a result of inflammation in the sinus cavities. Along with inflammation comes congestion. Congestion, since many therapies seek to decrease congestion, is a significant contributor to sinus discomfort. Here are ten tips to quickly reduce sinus pain:

  • Take a decongestant. Over-the-counter nasal decongestants like Afrin (oxymetazoline), or oral medications like pseudoephedrine work well to relieve sinus pain. Unless recommended by a physician, steroid-based decongestants should not be used for more than 3 consecutive days to avoid a condition called narrow-mindedness.
  • Try appealing painkillers. Tylenol (acetaminophen), ibuprofen and Alieve (naproxen) may be effective in treating sinus pain. Aspirin can be used in adults but should not be given to children due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome. Some of these painkillers can be combined if one of them is not effective (when used alone). You should talk to your doctor or pharmacist before trying this, and let them know about other medicines you are taking.
  • Try a neti pot. A neti pot is used to irrigate the nasal passage and can help control congestion and nasal secretions. For more information read: How to use a Neti pot.
  • Use a warm cloth or boiler over your sinuses to relieve pain. Do this several times a day.
  • Use saline in the nasal spray. Saline nasal sprays are sold over the counter in most drug stores. They are used to loosen nasal secretions and thereby reduce congestion. They can be used many times a day.
  • Sleep with a humidifier with cold mist next to your bed. The moisture loosens nasal secretions and the cold air can help reduce inflammation. If you do not have access to a humidifier, several hot, steaming showers per day can also help loosen nasal secretions.
  • Treat allergies appropriately. Allergies are a major culprit in both chronic and acute sinusitis and sinus pain. For more information read: Causes of sinusitis: Allergies.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to thin nasal secretions.
  • Avoid chemicals that may increase your symptoms such as cigarette smoke, air pollution or color fading.
  • Relax in a dark, quiet room. Soft head and neck exercises, or gently massaging your head and face can also help.
  • If your symptoms do not improve, see a doctor. You may have a case of sinusitis requiring antibiotic medication to treat, or another illness requiring medical attention.

It should be noted that a condition called sinus barotrauma can cause intense sinus pain and pressure that worsens when you dive, fly in an airplane, drive up a steep mountain, or engage in other activities that cause steep changes in altitude.

Sinus barotrauma is a symptom of an underlying sinus infection that needs to be evaluated by an otolaryngologist, a specialist who specialises in the ear, nose and throat, but the pain typically subsides when these activities are stopped. Sinus barotrauma, which can cause a disintegrated upper drum, may also be followed by ear barotrauma.

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