What makes sinus pressure go away?
Sinusitis (sinus infection)
Sinusitis is common after a cold or flu.
Symptoms of sinusitis include:
- pain, swelling and tenderness around your cheeks, eyes or forehead
- a blocked nose
- a reduced sense of smell
- green or yellow mucus from your nose
- a sinus headache
- a high temperature
- bad breath
Signs of sinusitis in young children may also include irritability, difficulty feeding, and breathing through their mouth.
What are the sinuses?
The sinuses are small, empty spaces behind your cheekbones and forehead that connect to the inside of the nose.
Sinusitis causes the lining of the sinuses to swell up.
This stops mucus draining into your nose and throat properly, making you feel blocked up.
How you can treat sinusitis yourself
You can often treat mild sinusitis without seeing a GP by:
- getting plenty of rest
- drinking plenty of fluids
- taking painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (do not give aspirin to children under 16)
- avoiding allergic triggers and not smoking
- cleaning your nose with a salt water solution to ease congestion
If you have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to do your normal activities, try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people until you feel better.
How to clean your nose with a homemade salt water solution
- Boil a pint of water, then leave it to cool.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda into the water.
- Wash your hands.
- Stand over a sink, cup the palm of 1 hand and pour a small amount of the solution into it.
- Sniff the water into 1 nostril at a time. Breathe through your mouth and allow the water to pour back into the sink. Try not to let the water go down the back of your throat.
- Repeat the first 5 steps up to 3 times a day until your nose feels more comfortable.
You do not need to use all of the solution, but make a fresh solution each time you clean your nose.
A pharmacist can help with sinusitis
A pharmacist can advise you about medicines that can help, such as:
- decongestant nasal sprays or drops to unblock your nose (decongestants should not be taken by children under 6)
- salt water nasal sprays or solutions to rinse out the inside of your nose
You can buy nasal sprays without a prescription, but they should not be used for more than 1 week.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- your symptoms are severe
- painkillers do not help or your symptoms get worse
- your symptoms do not improve after 1 week
- you keep getting sinusitis
Treatment for sinusitis from a GP
If you have sinusitis, a GP may be able to recommend other medicines to help with your symptoms, such as:
- steroid nasal sprays or drops – to reduce the swelling in your sinuses
- antihistamines – if an allergy is causing your symptoms
- antibiotics – if a bacterial infection is causing your symptoms and you’re very unwell or at risk of complications (but antibiotics are often not needed, as sinusitis is usually caused by a virus)
You might need to take steroid nasal sprays or drops for a few months. They sometimes cause irritation, sore throats or nosebleeds.
A GP may refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist if, for example, you:
- still have sinusitis after 3 months of treatment
- keep getting sinusitis
- only have symptoms on 1 side of your face
They may also recommend surgery in some cases.
Surgery for sinusitis
Surgery to treat chronic sinusitis is called functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS).
FESS is carried out under general anaesthetic (where you’re asleep).
The surgeon can widen your sinuses by either:
- removing some of the blocked tissue
- inflating a tiny balloon in the blocked sinuses, then removing it
You should be able to have FESS within 18 weeks of your GP appointment.
Page last reviewed: 02 February 2021
Next review due: 02 February 2024
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Sinus pressure occurs when the membranes that line your nasal passages become irritated or inflamed. Mucus may also build up and stop draining, leading to pain and pressure. Causes include colds, allergies and sinus infections. Taking over-the-counter medications and keeping your sinuses moist can help ease discomfort.
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What is sinus pressure?
Sinus pressure occurs when the membranes that line your nasal passages get irritated or swollen due to colds, allergies, sinus infections or other conditions. Mucus can also build up and stop draining properly, leading to pain and pressure.
What does sinus pressure feel like?
Sinus pressure might feel like tightness or achiness in your face — particularly around your eyes, nose, forehead or cheekbones. Sinus pressure can even radiate to other areas, like your scalp, teeth and jaws.
What is the main cause of sinus pressure?
Many conditions can result in sinus pressure. But one of the main causes is the common cold, a viral infection.
Sinus pressure may also result from:
- Sinus infections (acute and chronic).
- Allergies, such as hay fever.
- Environmental pollutants, such as cigarette smoke.
Care and Treatment
How is sinus pressure treated?
Sinus pressure treatment depends on the associated condition. In many cases, over-the-counter (OTC) medications and facial massage can help relieve your symptoms. However, if you have an infection, you may need antibiotics or other medications that only your provider can prescribe. That’s why it’s important to visit a healthcare provider whenever you feel under the weather.
What can I do at home for sinus pressure relief?
There are many things you can try at home to ease sinus pressure and pain:
Several different types of OTC medications can help ease uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Decongestants. These medications help reduce inflammation in your nasal passages. Decongestants come in pill or nasal spray form. Never use oral decongestants for more than one week without consulting a healthcare provider. Only use decongestant nasal sprays for three days. Any longer could result in rebound congestion (rhinitis medicamentosa).
- Antihistamines. If allergies result in sinus pressure, antihistamines can help. In addition to easing sinus pressure, these medications can treat other allergy symptoms, including watery eyes, sneezing and itchy skin. Your healthcare provider may recommend taking a decongestant and antihistamine together. Antihistamines can make you drowsy, so it’s best to take them at night.
- Pain relievers. Medications like acetaminophen, naproxen and ibuprofen can help relieve headaches and other sinus pressure-related pain.
- Steroid nasal sprays. These medications reduce swelling inside your nasal passages, making it easier for you to breathe through your nose. Steroid nasal sprays are available over the counter and by prescription.
- Menthol treatments. Topical treatments that contain menthol can’t relieve congestion, but they can make you more comfortable. You can apply this treatment to your neck or chest.
Soothe or clear nasal passages
Keeping your nasal passages moist is one of the most effective ways to relieve sinus pressure. To do this, you can try a nasal saline spray or gel.
For nasal irrigation, use a bulb irrigator, a Neti pot or a pre-filled container of saline. Holding your head over a sink, pour the saline solution into one nostril and allow it to drain out of the other. As the solution passes through your sinuses, it washes away irritants and allergens that can cause inflammation. (Note: Be sure to use distilled or sterile water to lower your risk of infection.)
Massage pressure points
There are several pressure points around your face where sinus pressure tends to build up. Massaging these areas can help relieve some of your symptoms. To do this, use your fingers to massage these areas in a circular motion:
- Above your eyebrows.
- Your temples.
- Your forehead.
- Near your nose, between your cheekbones and jaw.
- On either side of your nose bridge.
- In front of your ears, on both sides of your face.
It’s critical that you stay hydrated, especially if you’re congested. Dehydration can make sinus pressure worse. Drink plenty of water to ease your symptoms faster.
Breathing in steam can help open your nasal passages and relieve sinus pressure. The simplest way to do this is to take a hot shower or use a humidifier.
You can also boil water, pour it into a bowl and lean over it with your head a few inches above the water’s surface. Cover your head with a towel and breathe deeply through your nose. Be very careful when using this method. Handle the bowl carefully and place it on a stable surface to avoid burning yourself.
Before you go to sleep, prop yourself up on a few pillows. Simply elevating your head can help you breathe more comfortably.
Can I prevent sinus pressure from happening?
You can’t always prevent sinus pressure. But there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk:
- Avoid people who are sick with infections.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- If you have allergies, manage them with medication.
- Consider purchasing a humidifier.
- Steer clear of environmental irritants like cigarette smoke.
When to Call the Doctor
When should I call my healthcare provider?
You should call a healthcare provider if you have:
- A fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius) or higher.
- Sinus pressure that’s lasted for more than 10 days.
- Signs of a sinus infection, such as sore throat, discolored postnasal drip or runny nose.
- Severe pain or headache that doesn’t improve with medication.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do you feel sinus pressure?
Sinus pressure can result in general facial discomfort. In particular, you might feel tightness or soreness around your:
- Nose bridge.
- Forehead and temples.
- Upper jaw.
Can sinus pressure cause dizziness?
In some cases, yes. If pressure starts to build up in your middle ear, then you may experience dizziness or vertigo.
Can sinus pressure cause tooth pain?
Yes. Sinus pressure commonly refers (radiates to) tooth pain, especially around your upper molars.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Sinus pressure can be an annoying and inconvenient symptom of several health conditions. Though it’s usually not serious, it can have a negative impact on your quality of life. There are many things you can do at home to relieve sinus pressure and pain. But if you have a fever or symptoms that last longer than 10 days, schedule a visit with your healthcare provider.
Ten home remedies to relieve sinus pain and pressure
The pressure is building in your forehead, your nose is running, and you just don’t feel good. You suspect that you may have a sinus infection, or sinusitis. Most sinus infections will resolve themselves in seven to 10 days, just by taking care of yourself at home.
What to do for sinus pressure and pain at home
Here are the top 10 at-home treatments to help ease your sinus pain and inflammation to get rid of your sinus infection faster.
- Flush. Use a Neti pot, a therapy that uses a salt and water solution, to flush your nasal passages. Nasal irrigation using the Neti pot has been a tried-and-true sinus treatment method for centuries. I have patients who swear by Neti pots and use them daily or weekly to keep their sinuses flowing well. Remember to use distilled water only.
- Spray. Use an over-the-counter nasal decongestant spray that contains salt water to help keep your nasal passages moist, unblock congestion and treat inflammation. Some sprays, like Afrin ® , can only be used for a maximum of three days. If you exceed three days, you will get «rebound» or worse nasal congestion. Other nasal sprays, like fluticasone, are more effective the longer you use them.
- Hydrate. Drink a lot of fluids—water and/or juice—to help thin your mucus. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, which can cause dehydration.
- Rest. Get plenty of rest to help your body fight infection and speed up recovery. While you sleep, prop yourself up with a couple of pillows. Staying elevated can help you breathe more comfortably.
- Steam. Breathe in steam from a pot or bowl of warm (not too hot!) water or take a hot shower. You also can place a warm, wet towel on your face, followed by a cool towel. to help ease sinus pain and open your nasal passages.
- Spice. Eat spicy foods to help clear your nasal passages. Add hot peppers, hot sauce, horseradish or wasabi to your meal.
- Add humidity. Use a humidifier or vaporizer in your room while you sleep to add moisture to the air and help reduce congestion. Dry air, tobacco smoke and chlorinated water can irritate the mucus membranes in your nose and create an environment ripe for sinus infection.
- OTC medication. Take over-the-counter decongestants, antihistamines (if allergies are the culprit) and pain relievers to reduce sinus pain and pressure. Be sure to check with your doctor first if you have any health issues or take other medicines. Never give decongestants or any over-the-counter cold medicine to children under age 4. Nasal suction is the best form of «decongesting» for young children. This also reduces post-nasal drip and overall lung irritation.
- C is key. Up your intake of vitamin C. This may help fight off sinus infection faster, reduce sinus inflammation and relieve the duration of a sinus infection or cold symptoms.
- Know your triggers. Know what can trigger a cold or sinus infection and be prepared. Start taking an antihistamine prior to allergy season or use a Neti pot right away at the onset of a cold.
Sinus infection vs. COVID-19 symptoms
Some sinus infection and COVID-19 symptoms may overlap. Both illnesses can cause a fever, headaches, nasal congestion, fatigue or a sore throat. Symptoms unique to COVID-19 include body aches, nausea, shortness of breath and vomiting. Learn the difference between the cold, flu and COVID-19 based on your symptoms.
When to see a doctor for sinus pain
If your sinus symptoms are not getting better with at-home treatments, and if your sinus symptoms last longer than seven to 10 days, you should see a doctor for treatment. Allina Health has many convenient care options for care, from online visits to walk-in care, to help you get better fast.
If you have frequent or reoccurring sinus infections, you may want to see an ear, nose and throat (ENT, otolaryngologist) for your treatment options.
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