Eight tips to treat sinus pain

Bupa Logo at the reception
Lead Physician at Bupa
19 September 2023
Next review due September 2026

If you’ve ever been congested with a cold or flu, you might have felt pain or pressure in your face. This is because your sinuses were affected too. Although it’s not always possible to prevent sinus pain, there are steps you can take to ease it. Read on to find out more about what causes sinus pain and how you can treat it.

person lying on sofa feeling unwell

What are sinuses?

You have several sinuses near your nose, eyes, and cheekbones, known as paranasal sinuses. These sinuses are thought to have a few functions, including:

  • making your head lighter – they’re filled with air
  • keeping the air you breathe in warm and moist
  • helping to protect your face from injury

Your sinuses are lined by a membrane that can cause pain and discomfort if it becomes inflamed. Several things can cause inflammation in your sinuses.

Why are my sinuses painful?

Because your paranasal sinuses are so close to your nose, it can be easy for an infection in your nose to spread to your sinuses.

For example, if you have a cold or flu, the virus that causes illness can cause inflammation in your sinuses (sinusitis). This can cause pain in your face, as well as a blocked nose.

Sinus pain may also be a symptom of allergies, such as hayfever (allergic rhinitis). When your immune system reacts to allergens, such as pollen, it can cause congestion, as well as inflammation in your sinuses. This may also lead to you developing sinusitis.

If you have asthma or smoke, you’re also at higher risk of inflammation in your sinuses.

What are the symptoms of a sinus infection?

When you’re congested, it might feel like your face is ‘full’. This can be painful, and you may also feel pressure in your face, especially when you lean forwards. If you have a sinus infection (sinusitis), you might have other symptoms, including:

  • lost sense of smell or taste
  • facial swelling
  • feeling very tired (fatigue)
  • headache
  • toothache

Because of the location of your sinuses, it might be difficult to pinpoint where the pain is coming from. This is why you might feel pain elsewhere – for example, in your jaw, teeth, or cheek.

The pain often affects only one side of your face. For most people, symptoms of a sinus infection go away after two to three weeks and antibiotics aren’t needed to treat it.

But if your sinus pain lasts for more than three weeks, or gets worse, speak to your GP. They can advise you how to treat it, and may prescribe a corticosteroid nasal spray to treat the inflammation.

Eight tips to reduce sinus pain

While sinus pain can be uncomfortable, there are a few things you can try to ease your discomfort. Here are some tips for sinus pain relief.

1. Take over-the-counter painkillers

Over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, can help relieve pain, and also help lower your temperature if you have a fever.

2. Get plenty of rest and fluids

Being well-rested should aid your recovery, and staying hydrated will help thin the mucus that’s causing the congestion.

3. Take a decongestant

There are several decongestant medicines available as nasal sprays, which may relieve the pain and pressure in your face by reducing congestion.

4. Avoid triggers

If you have allergies, try to avoid what triggers them. And if you smoke, try not to smoke or be around other people who are smoking.

5. Use heat

Inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water or your shower can thin out the mucus in your nose, and hot drinks can help clear congestion. A warm face pack or towel may also help ease pain and pressure at the source if you place it over the affected sinuses.

6. Irrigate your nose

Washing out your nose with a warm salt-water solution could also ease congestion, but may take a bit of practice.

7. Take an antihistamine

If your sinus pain is caused by allergies, antihistamines may help. If you don’t have sinus pain due to hayfever, taking antihistamines is not generally recommended - they can make it harder to clear congestion.

8. Keep your head raised

You might find it difficult to sleep if you’re congested, but sleep is important for you to recover. Try using another at pillow – lying down can make you feel more congested, so raising your head may help ease discomfort in your sinuses.

Are you interested in learning more about your health? Discover more about our range of health assessments.

Bupa Logo at the reception
Dr Imran Khan
Lead Physician at Bupa



Sheila Pinion, Health Content Editor at Bupa UK

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