A cold makes it hard to breathe. When your sinuses get blocked, you might hurt too, especially around your forehead, eyes, cheeks, and nose. The pain might get worse when you touch your face or hold your head down.
You don’t need a doctor to deal with sinus pain caused by colds. It tends to get better along with your other cold symptoms. Sometimes, though, bacteria in blocked sinuses can lead to an infection known as sinusitis. Sinusitis from a bacterial infection might cause pain longer than the week of a typical cold. Your doctor may give you antibiotics and other medications to help you feel better.
Whether your sinus pain is caused by a cold or a bacterial infection, here’s how you can help relieve it:
- Use a saline nose spray. Ask your health care provider to suggest a plain saline spray. Saline mist will ease sinus swelling and help break up the mucus that’s clogging your nose. You can use it up to six times a day without worrying about side effects. You can also make your own saline nasal spray — ask your doctor or pharmacist how.
- Use a humidifier. Stuffy sinuses respond well to moist air. Using a humidifier, especially when you sleep at night, will help keep your sinuses open and relieve the pressure. You can also try sitting in a steamy bathroom after a hot shower, or inhaling the steam from a pan of hot (not boiling — be sure to remove it from the heat) water for faster relief.
- Apply a warm compress. Ease swelling and throbbing with a warm, moist washcloth across your forehead, eyes and cheeks.
- Use a decongestant nose spray. Over-the-counter nose sprays break up congestion quickly and provide relief, especially early in a cold. Don’t use these for more than 3 days. If you use them too long, they’ll actually make your stuffiness worse, not better.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers. Pain relievers like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen can relieve sinus pain. But never give a child or teenager aspirin for pain. It can be dangerous.
If you have sinus pain from a cold that isn’t better after 10 to 14 days, talk to your health-care provider. You may need an antibiotic or a different treatment.