You've got one of those horrible colds -- the kind that makes you feel like your head is stuffed with cotton and someone has replaced your nose with a drippy, leaky faucet. On top of the congestion, fatigue, and general misery, it feels like someone is sitting on the area around your nose, eyes, and cheeks. Your sinuses are under pressure, and they're driving you crazy.
How can the common cold virus lead to so much sinus pain and pressure? Here's what's behind your sinus suffering, and some tips on how to relieve it.
Why Is My Cold Making My Sinuses Swell?
You can thank the virus that gave you that nasty cold for the sinus pain and pressure you're feeling. That pesky cold virus has attacked the membranes of your nasal passages and your sinuses, making them swell up.
Those irritated nasal passages have sent mucus production into overdrive, and all that extra mucus is clogging up your normally air-filled sinuses. Instead of draining out, the mucus gets trapped inside your swollen sinuses. That's when you start to have the sinus pain and pressure that make you so miserable.
How to Relieve Sinus Pain
Because your cold is caused by a virus, you can't take an antibiotic (which kills bacteria) to relieve it. You'll have to hang in there for a few days, which is about how long it takes for a cold to go away on its own.
Until your cold and your sinus pain have bid you a final farewell, you can try one of these remedies to relieve sinus pain and pressure.
Over-the-counter medications. Decongestants shrink swollen blood vessels in the nasal passages to help relieve sinus congestion, reduce sinus pressure, and help promote nasal and sinus drainage. They are available as pills, liquids, and nasal sprays. Some medicines combine a decongestant with an antihistamine, which can help relieve your runny nose, or a pain reliever that can ease sinus pain.
Be careful not to use nasal decongestant sprays for more than three days, because they can lead to rebound congestion. Ask your doctor whether it's safe for you to take a decongestant if you have high blood pressure, because decongestants can raise blood pressure. Also check with your doctor if you have diabetes, an enlarged prostate, thyroid disease, or heart disease. While you're taking a decongestant medication, watch out for side effects like nervousness, dizziness, and sleeplessness.
Over-the-counter pain relievers, like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen sodium (Aleve), may help ease the pain caused by sinus pressure. When taking over-the-counter medications, be sure to read and follow the directions on the label and don't take more than the recommended dose.
Humidify the air. To help you breathe easier, turn on a vaporizer while you sleep, or just stand in a steamy shower for a few minutes. The steam will help loosen tight mucus. You can even hold a warm, wet washcloth to your nose or breathe in steam from a bowl of hot water to get a similar effect (just don't burn yourself in the process).