Sinus headaches, sometimes called allergy headaches, are a common type of secondary headache. “Secondary” means the headache is caused by another condition such as allergies or a sinus infection.
The sinuses are hollow areas in the skull. There are four pairs of them located on the forehead, between the eyes and on either side of the bridge of the nose. These areas are lined with mucosal tissues. When the tissues become inflamed or infected, they swell, resulting in pain from the pressure of the swelling.
This pain is experienced as a headache which can be more general in location when the frontal sinuses on the forehead are involved, or very specific when the paranasal sinuses are affected.
What It Feels Like
A sinus or allergy headache is often dull and does not usually throb. The pain is localized according to the pairs of sinuses affected. The ache is typically accompanied by a feeling of intense pressure.
These headaches sometimes involve other symptoms, such as tearing of the eyes and pressure or pain in the ears.
Diagnosis is usually made on the basis of your symptoms. If the headaches are chronic, additional diagnostic testing might be recommended.
Treatments that reduce the swelling in the sinuses are the key focus. Medications might be recommended but nasal rinses and steam inhalation work well too. If the symptoms are related to allergies, antihistamines might be prescribed. If the symptoms are related to an infection, you might be asked to take antibiotics.
Sinus headaches caused by infections (sinusitis) and allergies typically respond well to treatment. In cases where they become persistent, such as if there is an obstruction, prolonged treatment including surgery might be needed.