For people over the age of 75, only 55% of older women get regular headaches and just 21% of older men get them. For comparison, the majority of women and three-quarters of men in their 20s and 30s get regular headaches.
Dealing with fewer headaches is one of the great things about getting older. But if you’re one of those select few who still gets headaches, hearing those statistics won’t make your current one go away.
The good news is, there’s plenty of ways to get sinus headache relief. Read on to learn how to stop sinus headaches so you can get back to enjoying your golden years.
What Is a Sinus Headache?
A sinus headache is head or face pain that’s caused by swelling or congestion in your sinuses.
Your sinuses are hollow cavities that sit behind your eyes and nose and in your forehead and cheeks. They’re important because they provide moisture for your nose. But when they’re swollen or blocked, it can cause a lot of pain.
You might get a sinus headache if you have a sinus infection, allergies, or chronic sinusitis.
Sinus Headache Symptoms vs. Migraine
Before you attempt to treat your headache, decide whether or not it’s truly a sinus headache. As many as 90% of people believe they’re suffering from a sinus headache when it’s actually a migraine.
If it’s a sinus headache, you might feel pressure in your head and pain that gets worse when you bend over. You could also have flushed cheeks, swelling in your face, yellow or green snot, and a stuffy nose.
You might have a migraine if you feel sensitive to light and sound, have nausea, or feel dizzy alongside your head pain. Cold compresses and relaxing in a dark room can help.
While a few of the treatments below can provide relief for both sinus headaches and migraines, they’re geared towards sinus pain.
- Use an Over-The-Counter Pain Medication
A simple way to try and relieve the pain from your sinuses is to take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
Try taking an NSAID like ibuprofen or naproxen. They can help reduce the swelling that’s causing your headache. Acetaminophen is also an option for pain relief, but it won’t relieve swelling.
Keep in mind that pain medication can make you feel better, but it doesn’t fix the root problem.
- Take a Nasal Decongestant
If you feel congested or like you have a lot of trapped mucus, you can try a decongestant. These offer relief by managing the swelling and keeping your sinuses from producing too much mucus.
If you take a decongestant like Sudafed, make sure to read the label and check with your doctor to make sure it won’t interact with any other prescriptions. If you don’t get relief, talk to your doctor before taking it for more than a week.
While you’re in the nasal decongestant aisle, you might notice decongestant sprays. While these can offer some sinus relief, they can cause rebound congestion if you use them for more than a few days.
- Use a Humidifier
Whether you live in a dry climate or you’re breathing dry indoor air in the winter, dry air can cause sinus headaches. Your sinuses need moisture to stay healthy and keep you from breathing pollutants.
You can get sinus help from humidifier units almost immediately. Humidifiers start adding moisture to the air as soon as you turn them on. If you sit near your humidifier, you could start feeling better in less than an hour.
- Try a Saline Spray
If your sinuses feel dry but you don’t have the time or budget to get a humidifier, try a saline spray. It only costs a few dollars and you can find it at any drugstore.
The saltwater helps moisturize your sinuses. Plus, it softens the mucus, which helps it drain more easily.
Unlike a nasal decongestant spray which you can only use for a few days, you can use a saline spray as long as you have symptoms. After each use, wipe off the nozzle tip with a tissue. It’s best not to share it with anyone since that can spread bacteria.
- Rinse Your Sinuses With a Neti Pot
If you’re in desperate need of relief, one of the best headache treatments is to rinse your sinuses with a neti pot. It’s similar to the saline spray treatment, only it uses much more saltwater.
To use this method, you’ll need a sterile saltwater solution and a neti pot. You can buy distilled water from the drugstore and add salt. You can also boil tap water for several minutes, let it cool until it’s lukewarm, and add salt.
You’ll pour the water in one nostril and let it drain out the other. This is an effective and drug-free way to get sinus headache relief.
- Take a Hot Shower
If you don’t have a humidifier, saline spray, or a Neti pot, you can always try a good old hot shower. A warm shower can help you relax, which can help with pain relief.
While you’re in the shower, take a few deep breaths through your nose. The steam will moisturize your sinuses and break up your congestion.
If you’re in a lot of pain, try taking a shower both in the morning and at night. The evening shower might also help you sleep better.
- Enjoy Hot Tea or Soup
When you’re dealing with sinus pain, it’s important to stay hydrated. Drink more liquids than you normally do to help loosen the mucus in your sinuses.
Water will keep you hydrated, but hot tea or soup can help you hydrate and soothe your head pain. Brew a cup of tea or warm up a bowl of soup and hold your head over it before you drink it. The steam will open your sinuses and the warmth will soothe your pain.
- Use a Warm Compress
If your sinus pressure is also making your face sore to the touch, a warm compress can help. It can ease your pain and help break up mucus.
Rinse a washcloth in hot water and wring it out. Lie down and put the washcloth on your face, focusing on the area with the most pain.
If you’re in a lot of pain, you can also alternate with a cold compress. The shift in temperature helps with swelling. After a few minutes with the warm compress, switch to the cold for about a minute before switching back to the warm.
- Eat Some Spicy Food
If you enjoy spicy foods and you don’t have any digestion troubles, try eating some spicy food. Hot sauce, jerk seasoning, and hot peppers can all wake up your sinuses.
If you have a lot of sinus pain, you may want to avoid horseradish or wasabi. They can give you a strong burning sensation in your sinuses that could make you feel worse.
Plus, eating spicy food releases endorphins or feel-good chemicals, which can also relieve pain.
- Hum a Song
It might sound strange, but humming can relieve some of the pressure that’s causing your headache.
Studies have shown that humming creates 15 times the airflow to your sinuses compared to regular breathing. Plus, the vibration can loosen mucus in your sinuses and help it drain.
If you suffer from frequent sinus headaches and congestion, try to hum a few songs each day. At the very least, humming can improve your mood or distract you from your pain.
- Avoid Things That Trigger a Sinus Headache
Seasonal allergies are a common trigger for sinus pain and headaches. Remember that you can develop an allergy at any age.
When you know you’re allergic to something, avoid it as much as possible so you can prevent a sinus headache.
For example, if you know pollen triggers your headaches, limit your time outside when there’s a high pollen count. You can also replace your HVAC air filter to keep the air in your home as clean as possible.
You can also try taking an antihistamine or an allergy pill to prevent the allergic reaction in the first place. Talk with your doctor to choose the best one for you.
- Know When to Visit a Doctor
If you’ve tried some of the tips above but you’re not getting any relief, it’s time to see your doctor. You also need to see a doctor if your snot is yellow or green, you have a fever, stiff neck, numbness, tingling, or vomiting.
It could be a sinus infection or something else. If it’s a sinus infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to clear it up.
Sinus Headache Relief Is Possible
Normal headaches are bad enough, but it’s even worse when you’re also battling congestion and facial pain. Luckily, there are plenty of sinus headache relief methods to try.
If you’re still not getting relief, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor. They can analyze your symptoms and come up with a plan of action.
To find more tips for living a healthier life, check out our articles on health and wellness.