Sinus pressure can be extremely disabling for many people. It can cause day to day difficulty in the form of headaches, sore throats, weariness and all round physical distress. Though in theory located in the sinuses, its effects can be whole-body, and you will definitely want to get rid of sinus pressure as quickly as possible to make sure your daily life functions well again.
There are many symptoms of sinus pressure – sometimes called sinusitis – but the good news is there are also a large number of treatments and ways of alleviating the symptoms sinusitis causes.
This article will help you work out what is best for you as you fight off the feeling of being blocked up and unwell.
This is the most common symptom of sinus issues. You feel breathless, unable to breathe clearly through your nostrils, and you can have real difficulty sleeping. It is an all round uncomfortable and unpleasant feeling. It’s a symptom that’s often caused by allergies, colds, and other upper respiratory problems that can then lead to sinus pressure.
To alleviate the effects, be sure to be hydrated. Increasing hydration is absolutely essential. Hydration works to help thin out the mucus that is causing the congestion. Additionally, many people have found that using a humidifier, or a saline spray, can help alleviate the pressure in your nasal passages. The type of hydration matters, however, so do not just drink fizzy juices! Important is that you opt for lemon drinks, some green teas that are strong in antioxidants, and some drinks with honey and ginger.
Facial pain and pressure
The pressure is also likely to cause some facial pain, as if you are swelling. In fact, your overall face is unlikely to be swelling, but you may sense a throbbing on parts of your face around the upper nose and eyes, and in some people the eyes may puff a little.
This kind of symptom can be really distressing, as you have both an internal pain and an external physical manifestation of it. It can be difficult to ignore and it can make daily life, especially working life, stressful and laborious.
The pain comes from the fact that your sinuses are inflamed, which is an effect of a weakened immune system and is a byproduct of sinus pain itself. The blockages in the sinuses lead to pressure building up as air cannot flow as well and the effect of this is a degree of inflammation.
To redress the effects of this pressure, one remedy is to use a warm compress. Simply applying a warm cloth on the face can be extremely beneficial to the overall feeling of pressure, so long as you do not make the compress too hot. Keep it at a moderate temperature, as it is important the compress is comfortable on your skin. You do not need extreme heat.
The pharmacist will also have a large range of nasal irrigation and decongestant sprays that are tried and tested methods of helping to reduce the pressure and relieve pain.
It is wise to act promptly in this regard, as speed can be important in helping to limit the development of sinus pressure.
Headaches are an exceptionally common symptom of sinus pressure. Even people not prone to headaches may find they feel a pain across the skull, usually at the front of the head along the forehead.
In some cases, the headaches can be intense, and you need to be very aware that action must be taken to alleviate the pain. Ibuprofen or paracetamol are the most common remedies from a pharmacy, but there are others. As always with medication, check with your pharmacist or doctor to ensure you are not taking a combination of pills that is unhelpful or dangerous.
Many people will also resort to steam inhalation to assist in the lessening of a headache’s potency. Place your head carefully over a bowl of hot water with a towel around your head and gently allow the steam to enter your sinuses. Be careful not to make the steam too intense. It is not necessary. You usually only need a modest rise in temperature to stimulate your sinuses to release mucus. Steams can be repeated a few times a day.
Fevers can be tricky, as they make your body feel hot all over, and your head can often feel incredibly pressured. In fact a fever is sometimes an effect of sinus blockages, though it is not always immediately clear that this is the case. Reducing the blockage in the sinuses will almost certainly aid in the reduction of your fever, but you may still have a fever if the fever is also caused by other factors in your body’s health at the time.
But how do you know if your fever is due to a sinus infection or something else? In truth, you may not be able to identify this readily and you may benefit from seeking medical advice if the fever is especially significant and your temperature is notably high. Be sure to check out the article on this site, ‘How to Cure A Fever’, for further fever-specific advice. Ultimately, a fever is caused by your body’s attempt to fight off an infection and is often accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue, chills, a headache, sinus blockage, and an increased heart rate. Establishing the root causes can be tricky, but a fever is usually temporary and is readily treatable, so do not panic unduly.
As you might expect with a condition that affects breathing, fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of sinus pressure.
Fatigue can be managed in your life, however, and in fact good sleep habits help avoid sinus pressure from developing, as sleep acts as a restorative that helps fight infection. Most people need around 7-8 hours of good sleep per night, so try to build this into your life.
When you are suffering from sinusitis or sinus pressure, it is all the more important to ensure an effective night’s sleep. You may need to take a hot honey or ginger drink as a soporific before bedtime. Alternatively, a camomile or lavender drink can help, too, as these herbs have calming properties.
Do not underestimate the power of sleeping well! If you respect the body’s need for rest, you will have fewer illnesses and those that you do have will last less long.
Ask most people which symptoms of sinus pressure they like least and many will say coughing. Without doubt, it is a disabling and frustrating symptom.
In fact, it is an aid to sinus pressure, as in some respects it helps release the build-up of pressure in the sinuses. By clearing mucus and other irritants, you aid in your breathing, but there’s no doubt that coughing can be extremely uncomfortable and genuinely painful, especially if it leads to a sore throat.
The best way to cough productively is to take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale out of your mouth. Doing this multiple times can help increase your lung capacity and expel any excess mucus your body may be producing.
Additionally, don;t underestimate the power of an over the counter decongestant. They are designed to release mucus too, and to act as anti-inflammatories that release sinus pressure.
Many people will have experienced this without necessarily knowing that it has a specific name. In effect, a post-nasal drip is when you have a feeling of liquid or mucus running out the back of your nose.
Medically speaking, what is happening is that the tissue lining of your nasal cavity becomes inflamed, when you have sinus pressure and this means your body produces more mucus than usual in an effort to flush out the pathogens or allergens that are causing the sinus pressure in the first place. An uncomfortable process, postnasal drip is in reality a sign that your body is fighting back.
To relieve it, one obvious option is to take a decongestant, as this will help reduce the inflammation and control the production of mucus. Over-the-counter saline nasal sprays can also provide relief, by helping to keep your nasal passages lubricated and reduce dryness.
However, do not forget traditional remedies. In addition, gargling salt water and drinking plenty of fluids can help thin the mucus and keep it from building up.
Causes of Sinus Pressure
One of the issues you need to be aware of regarding sinus pressures is that of allergies. Allergies often play a role in the scale of sinus pressure we feel. They can cause inflammation in your sinuses and it is this that can lead to a feeling of blockage or pressure.
Allergies are in some respects rooted in protection, as they are an overreaction of your immune system trying to deal with something in your environment, such as pollen, dust mites, pets, or food. These allergies trigger inflammation and the release of histamine, which will lead to all the familiar symptoms of congestion, sneezing, and headache. Antihistamines are readily available from all pharmacies and many supermarkets, and they tend to help with most sufferers. It is worth analyzing whether there could be an allergic reason for your sinus pressure. If so, you may need to bear in mind the pressure may repeat, if you come into contact with the same allergens. Have antihistamine tablets on hand!
Viral or bacterial infections
These forms of infections can also trigger sinus reactions and pressure.
A viral infection will typically affect your respiratory system, causing symptoms like coughing and sneezing, whereas a bacterial infection often results in more intense symptoms like fever and facial pain.
If you have a very notable dose of sinus pressure and it is connected to other symptoms, you may be wise to talk to a medical service to check what kind of medication will aid you most.
Exposure to pollutants or irritants
The nose is extremely responsive to irritants, as we all know with sneezing.
More seriously, if you suffer from repeated flare ups of sinus pressure you may need to check carefully what environments you are in, as it is possible the reactions are due to pollutants, such as smoke or traffic fumes, or the usual suspects like dust or pollen.
If you have a strong reaction, you are best to do all you can to avoid those environments, but it can of course be difficult.
A deviated septum is more common than you might think, even though it sounds grim! The septum is the wall of cartilage that separates your nostrils, and when it is irregular, or deviated, as we tend to say, it can affect how the sinuses drain. This can lead to a blocked nose and often quite notable difficulty breathing.
Many people do not realize that a deviated septum is what is causing their sinus issues. Many go undetected, as people simply think they have sinus issues.
If you suffer from repeated bouts of sinus pressure it really is worthwhile checking to see if you may indeed have a deviation in your septum. To do so, speak to a doctor, who will likely examine your nose and take an imaging test, which can help diagnose the situation either way.
There are a number of treatments, including nasal splint, surgery, and some particular exercises you can do for the nose that help realign the septum to work more normally.
Structural abnormalities in the nose
In addition to the possibility of a deviated septum, other structural issues with the nose are potential causes of your sinus problem. Your doctor may realize you have what are called ‘enlarged turbinates’, which like a deviated septum, can restrict airflow and cause pain in the sinus area.
The turbinates are long and slender bones in the nose, and each of us has three pairs of these bones. If there is a strangely large bone, it may be partly the reason your nasal passages are problematic. This diagnosis can only be done by a nose specialist, so make sure to discuss this option with your doctor. It is not something you can self-diagnose.
This form of medication is the ‘go to’ for many of us when we feel unwell. Certainly, antibiotics can help fight off the infection that’s causing sinus pressure, especially if it’s bacterial. Depending on the type of infection you have, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to take orally or, in some instances, apply directly to your nose as a topical ointment.
But, before you try antibiotics, it’s important to understand that they won’t work for every type of sinus infection. Antibiotics are most effective against bacterial sinus infections, like sinusitis, but won’t do much for viral infections like the common cold. In addition, some sinus pressure can be caused by allergies, in which case antibiotics won’t help either. For those, you may need allergy-specific medication or a straightforward antihistamine.
Decongestants is a word we all know, but which we may not understand medically. They work as they do because they are vasoconstrictors, which means they reduce swelling in the nasal cavities. This can therefore help to reduce the pressure caused by congestion and clear your nasal passages. On top of that, some decongestants can also provide relief from itching, sneezing, and other allergy-related symptoms.
There is a huge variety of decongestants on the market, almost all of them available as OTC medicines. Talk to a pharmacist to determine the one that will be the most efficacious for your particular symptoms.
Saline nasal sprays
This is a very simple and often highly effective antidote to sinus pressure. A saline nasal spray is simply a solution composed of salt and water that’s sprayed into the nostrils in order to help keep your passages clear. The saline spray can also help to reduce swelling and congestion which can, in turn, help reduce the amount of pressure in your nostrils.
To ensure the spray works effectively, you need to do all you can to blow or clean your nose prior to use, otherwise the spray will be sub-optimal and may not actually work well.
Saline sprays are also readily available.
One question commonly asked is, ‘What medications can I take for my allergies?’ In reality, that depends on the specific type of allergy and its severity. For example, antihistamines can provide relief from some allergy-related symptoms, like sneezing, itching, and runny nose. Nasal sprays may also help to reduce inflammation in the sinuses and alleviate congestion. If your allergies are more severe or persistent, your doctor may even recommend a course of corticosteroids.
But these treatments aren’t one size fits all, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis first. Talk to your doctor about what allergy medications are right for you, and look for ways to reduce exposure to potential allergen triggers in your environment.
This form of medication is likely only to be required in a minority of circumstances. These medicines will be prescribed by your doctor.
They work to deal with stronger nasal blockages and pressures and seek to rescue inflammation. That said, you must talk to a doctor prior to engaging in this form of treatment.
This approach is also likely to be used in only a small number of cases, as most sinus pressures are temporary and are responsive to the treatments we discussed earlier.
Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that boosts the body’s natural defenses to fight diseases and reduce symptoms. It works by targeting specific proteins produced by the body that can cause inflammation and lead to sinus infections.
Before you determine if this treatment is right for you, a consultation with your medical service or doctor will have had to take place, but if you are continuingly suffering from bouts of sinus pressure it may indeed be wise to look into immunotherapy options.
Home remedies are always an option in treating sinus pressure and the following are ideas that you can readily try to help you fight off sinus issues. Most can be attempted very easily, and are a useful first step before you decide whether you need more significant medical options.
This is perhaps the most well-known of all home remedies, and it is often highly effective for mild cases.
Steam inhalation helps to loosen the mucus that has built up in your sinuses and ease sinus pressure. You can either use a facial steamer or just boil a pot of water and then lean over the pot breathing in the steam. Make sure to keep your head at least 10-12 inches away from the hot water so you don’t burn yourself, and you do not really need to use incredibly hot water. The nose will be stimulated to release mucus with even a relatively mild heat.
Adding some essential oils, such as eucalyptus, lavender or peppermint, to the water can help make the experience more relaxing. Plus, it can improve your breathing and open up any blocked nasal passages.
Nasal Irrigation and Saline Sprays
This treatment involves a saline rinse of the nose.
Very similarly, a saline spray is simply a saltwater solution that helps rinse the sinuses. It helps to clear out congestion and decrease inflammation, as the saline thins mucus so that it can be cleared more easily through blowing your nose.
Because the saline spray is a natural and gentle solution, it’s safe for regular use. It can be purchased over the counter or you can easily make it yourself at home.
These are tried and tested home remedies over generations, so they are genuinely worth the time to try them out before you decide whether you need anything more substantive.
A hot compress is a cloth or towel which is heated up and can be applied to the face for a few minutes. The heat from the compress helps to reduce inflammation and provide soothing relief. Additionally, it increases blood circulation to the area, helping to reduce any pain.
This, too, is a tried and tested way of reducing pressure in the sinuses. It will help provide temporary relief relatively immediately, and, over the course of a few days, if you use one a couple of times a day, will assist in the gradual diminishing of your symptoms. It makes a very good complement to other treatments.
Essential oils are smart! They are composed of molecules that interact with the body’s immune system, and in the case of your sinuses, they help to reduce inflammation and improve circulation.
Eucalyptus, peppermint and tea tree oils are the most commonly used and effective. Often, they are ingredients in medications you buy, but a cheaper option is to buy the oils and then use a small drip or two in a steam inhalation. They make that process more pleasant as well as more effective. Tea tree oil is also antiseptic, so helps treat infections too.
For centuries, herbal teas have been used as a natural remedy to reduce inflammation and aid in symptoms associated with various illnesses. The great thing about herbal teas is that they offer a multitude of health benefits.
Choosing the right herbal tea for your needs is important. Depending on the type of sinus pressure you are experiencing, certain herbs may be more effective than others. For example, ginger tea may be beneficial for reducing thick mucus and clearing nasal passages, while chamomile tea is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce sinus congestion.
Whatever herb you choose, it is important to remember to steep the tea for at least five minutes in order to get the full benefits from the herbs. Additionally, adding a squeeze of lemon or honey can also help to improve the taste and enhance the healing properties of the herbal tea.
There is no hard and fast science about diet and sinus pressure, but many testify to the fact that some food types are more likely to cause sinus issues than others.
In particular, dairy products are often associated with sinus problems. Processed and overly treated foods also cause problems and are best avoided – and not just for the benefit of your sinuses, as processed foods are never going to support optimal health.
By contrast, garlic and onions have helpful antiinflammatory properties and they also help stimulate mucus to exit the nose and make blowing your nose more relieving. They can certainly assist in the symptoms of sinusitis.
As with other health conditions, add more leafy greens and fresh fruits to your diet if you want to improve your sinus health. These can help to hydrate your mucous membranes, while providing vitamins and minerals that may help boost your body’s natural anti-inflammatory response.
For some people, nasal irrigation sounds dreadful, but in fact it is a helpful way to address issues of sinus blockage and pressure.
Mix a teaspoon of salt with a cup of warm water
This is a highly effective method of pressure reduction. It works well because the salt helps to draw out excess fluid from the congestion in your sinuses, which helps reduce inflammation and ultimately gives you some relief from the pain and pressure.
In addition, it helps to clear out mucus and reduce the amount of bacteria that could be causing your sinus issues. Be very careful that your water is not too hot. There is no need for boiling water at any point in this process.
Bend over a sink and tilt your head to one side
This might sound like a silly option, but it works. Just as we suffer in our sleep from the movement of mucus when we have our head to one side, so it is also the case that when we are awake we can use gravity to our advantage!
This is a great way to encourage the drainage of fluids and open up the passages in your sinuses. By bending over a sink, you can allow gravity to work in your favor and help alleviate the pressure you’re feeling. Plus, you can also flush out any irritants or allergens that might be causing the issue.
You may need to wait a few minutes before the mucus moves, so this can be a little bit uncomfortable, but if you can find a good position so that there is no strain or ache in your position, you will feel the mucus move.
You may wish to combine this approach with an essential oil steaming session over a bowl, alternating between the two approaches.
Place a saline solution into one nostril and let it drain out of the other
Fortunately, the nostrils are of course connected! This means that one nostril can come to the adi of the other.
You may therefore find that spraying a saline solution in one nostril helps the other one too, if you manipulate your head to accommodate the movement of the solution. This allows the saline to help break up the mucus as it travels through your nostrils and you will gradually be flushing out the mucus to relieve sinus pressure.
This is often more effective than you might imagine, but always be careful to be gentle when massaging your skull.
One simple technique is to press your fingers into the sides of your forehead and gently massage the temples. This will help encourage circulation, helping to reduce the swelling and pressure.
Additionally, gently pressing each side of your nose for two seconds and then releasing can help alleviate congestion. Repeat this action on both sides of your nose to further increase the flow of airflow in your head, which can help reduce overall sinus pressure.
These by themselves will not likely completely cure your sinus pressure or unblock mucus fast, but they can be very effective palliative strategies while other treatments are also used.
Apply a hot compress over your face
There are a few different ways to apply a hot compress.
You can use a microwavable heating pad or hot water bottle, or simply soak a cloth in hot water and place it over your face. It need not be a complicated process!
Regardless of which option you choose, you should keep the compress on your face for 15 to 20 minutes for maximum effect.
Many people also soak the compress in a few drops of essential oils, typically tea tree or eucalyptus oils, which further stimulate the sinuses and also make the process a more fragrant and relaxing one.
Add a few drops of essential oils such as peppermint, eucalyptus, or lavender to a steam inhalation
You may be surprised how much this can help with sinus pressure. Inhaling the vapor helps to thin and loosen any mucus buildup in your nasal passages and sinuses. The added benefit of the essential oils makes it that much more effective.
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, peppermint oil helps to reduce swelling in the nasal passages, while eucalyptus oil helps to open them up. Lavender oil has a calming effect, which can help to take away some of the discomfort associated with the pressure.
We really do recommend having a selection of essential oils in your bathroom for when the occasional sinus blockage comes. They are often a very wise first port of call for any such ailments.
Apply the oils directly to your skin
The benefit of these oils is that they are also wholesome when added to your skin. You can apply them anywhere on your body to good effect, and if you have sinus pressure these oils can be highly effective if dabbed around your neck, nostrils and even on your chest.
One way to enhance their benefits is to mix a few drops with your favorite moisturizer or cream. Mixing in a few drops of eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender oils with a carrier oil like jojoba or almond oil can be a fantastic way to assist in unblocking your sinuses while also treating your skin to a wonderful healthy bath! Rub your cream on to your chest and neck and there will be a lovely fragrance that helps keep your nostrils stimulated into action and into releasing the mucus.
Drink herbal teas such as ginger, chamomile, or peppermint
Many herbal teas have anti-inflammatory properties, with ginger, chamomile, and peppermint being some of the most popular.
Ginger is great for reducing nasal congestion, while peppermint can reduce pain in the sinuses. Chamomile can reduce inflammation and can even help you relax after a long day.
Be open to including these teas in your armory of tactics to ensure you limit sinus pressure and blockages as early as possible. It is important when we feel unwell that we treat our bodies with good things, as herbal teas are one of nature’s great health-supporters.
You can also add honey or lemon for a soothing effect
Both lemon and honey have antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory effects, which can help reduce the swelling and irritation caused by sinus pressure. They are superb addition to any diet that is trying to recover strength after or during a bout of mild sinus infection.
Lemon juice can also help thin mucus buildup in your sinus cavity, while honey is a natural antiseptic that can keep bacteria away.
In addition to this, lemon and honey also have a soothing effect, helping to alleviate the pain associated with sinus pressure.
Drink plenty of fluids
Hydration’s benefits cannot be overstated! You must drink plenty of fluids to ensure you attain as much chance as possible of fighting off your sinus infections. Hydration helps to thin the mucus in your system and this is of course essential to clear your sinus cavities and reduce the pressure they feel.
In fact, drinking too little can actually make the problem worse, so do be careful to keep up your levels of fluid intake.
Eat foods high in Vitamin C and zinc
Eating foods high in Vitamin C and zinc could be the answer to many health matters, and it certainly helps to alleviate sinus pressures.
Vitamin C is known to reduce inflammation, while zinc has been shown to improve mucosal repair and mucociliary clearance. That means it can help your sinus drainage, improving your symptoms.
Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit, strawberries, kiwi, bell peppers, and dark green, leafy vegetables are all great sources of Vitamin C, while oysters, beef, legumes and dairy products are good choices for zinc.
Incorporate these foods both to treat sinus ailments and also potentially prevent future infection.
Avoid dairy products and processed foods
Eating dairy products or processed foods will likely exacerbate your sinus pressure. This is because dairy products can increase mucus production, resulting in congestion which, in turn, puts more pressure on your sinus passages and exacerbates any existing symptoms. Processed foods also contain lots of preservatives, sodium, and sugar, all of which can lead to dehydration and inflammation of the sinuses.