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Sinus Headaches FAQ - Questions and Answers

What is a Sinus Headache?
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, sinus headaches are associated with a swelling of the membranes lining the sinuses (spaces adjacent to the nasal passages). Pain occurs in the affected region - the result of air, pus, and mucus being trapped within the obstructed sinuses. The discomfort often occurs under the eye and in the upper teeth (disguised as a headache or toothache). Sinus headaches tend to worsen as you bend forward or lie down.

How Many Americans Suffer From Sinus Headaches?
A Louis Harris & Associates survey in the late 1990's showed that four out of every 10 adults are stricken with sinus headaches. The same survey found that "Nearly one-fourth of sinus headache sufferers say the painful condition affects every aspect of their lives, including their appearance."

Is a Headache Always a Sinus Headache?
No. Some people experience headaches unrelated to sinusitis, which could actually be a tension headache, migraine, or cluster headache. In a surprise finding from a study conducted by the Headache Care Center in Springfield, Mo., it was revealed that 90 percent of patients who have self-diagnosed sinus headache, and even those with a physician diagnosis of sinus headache, actually met established criteria for the diagnosis of migraine.

What are Some Ways of Treating Sinus Headaches?
Here are some suggestions from the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery:

» Breathe moist air
Relief for a sinus headache can be achieved by humidifying the dry air environment. This can be done by using a steam vaporizer or cool-mist humidifier, steam from a basin of hot water, or steam from a hot shower.

» Alternate hot and cold compresses
Place a hot compress across your sinuses for three minutes, and then a cold compress for 30 seconds. Repeat this procedure three times per treatment, two to six times a day.

» Nasal irrigation
Some believe that when nasal irrigation or rinse is performed, mucus, allergy creating particles and irritants such as pollens, dust particles, pollutants and bacteria are washed away, reducing the inflammation of the mucous membrane. Normal mucosa will fight infections and allergies better and will reduce the symptoms. Nasal irrigation helps shrink the sinus membranes and thus increases drainage. There are several over-the-counter nasal rinse products available. Consult your ear, nose, and throat specialist for directions on making a home nasal rinse or irrigation solution.

» Over-the-counter medications
Some over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are highly effective in reducing sinus headache pain. The primary ingredient in most OTC pain relievers is aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, or a combination of them. The best way to choose a pain reliever is by determining which of these ingredients works best for you.

» Decongestants
Sinus pressure headaches caused by allergies are usually treated with decongestants and antihistamines. In difficult cases, nasal steroid sprays may be recommended.

» Alternative medicine
Chinese herbalists use Magnolia Flower as a remedy for clogged sinus and nasal passages. In conjunction with other herbs, such as angelica, mint, and chrysanthemum, it is often recommended for upper respiratory tract infections and sinus headaches, although its effectiveness for these problems has not been scientifically confirmed.

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