Everyone gets a cold from time to time. More than 200 different viruses can cause a cold, but the rhinovirus is the most common culprit. Its symptoms typically include runny nose and sneezing. A cold is not the same as the flu (influenza). Flu symptoms are more severe and can include a fever and shaking chills, aches and pains, lethargy and headaches.
Sinus pain combines the familiar symptoms of a cold – like a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat and a cough – with pain and tenderness in the face.
- drink plenty of fluids to help thin the mucus in the sinuses
- apply a warm, moist washcloth to the face several times a day
- use a steam inhalation two to four times a day – for example, inhale the steam from a bowl of hot water; place a towel over your head to keep the steam in
- avoid dry places and use a humidifier to keep the air moist
- use a saline spray several times a day as this can remove thick mucus and help the sinus to drain
- avoid things that can irritate the nose, such as cigarette smoke
- avoid sudden changes in temperature or bending your head down
Medication can also help. Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help to relieve sinus pain and headaches. Decongestants can ease a blocked nose and come in a number of forms such as drops, nasal sprays, tablets and powders that can be made into hot drinks.
Care needs to be taken with over-the-counter nasal spray decongestants as they can be helpful at first but may make the problem worse if used for more than three to five days. Some products are available that combine analgesics with decongestants to tackle sinus pain on both fronts.