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 bacterial 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 relieve it:
- Try a saline nose spray. Ask your doctor or pharmacist 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, and be sure that the water you use is distilled or has been boiled, not straight from a tap.
- 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) water for faster relief.
- Apply a warm compress. Ease swelling and throbbing with a warm, wet washcloth across your forehead, eyes, and cheeks.
- Use an over-the-counter (OTC) decongestant nose spray. These ease congestion and provide relief, especially early in a cold. You can get them as a nasal spray, liquid, or pill. If you use a decongestant nasal spray, don’t use it for more than 3 days. If you use it for longer, it can make your stuffiness worse, not better.
- Take OTC pain relievers. 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 days, talk to your doctor. You may need an antibiotic or a different treatment.
- American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery: “Fact Sheet: Can Over-the-Counter Medications Help?" “Fact Sheet: 20 Questions About Your Sinuses."
- Healthychildren.org: “The Difference Between Sinusitis and a Cold."
- MedlinePlus: “Sinusitis."
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “Sinusitis."