How to Tell the Difference Between a Sinus Headache and a Sinus Infection

At the Center for Allergy and Asthma of Georgia, our board-certified allergists and physicians see patients for many conditions, and offer multiple services to treat them. Sinus conditions are among the most common issues we treat, yet they are also among the most misunderstood. Many in the general public still do not know the difference between general sinus headaches and chronic sinus infections.

While sinus headaches and sinus infections share many of the same characteristics, there are important differences between the overall scope of these afflictions. Read on to learn how to tell the difference between a sinus infection and a sinus headache, and schedule an appointment with our Georgia allergists today for all sinus and allergy-related issues.

Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches cause deep, throbbing pain inside a person’s head and pressure throughout their face. It is critical to understand that sinus headaches are one common symptom of a sinus infection. However, sinus headaches can also occur on their own, apart from a sinus infection, too.

Sinus headaches are frequently mistaken for migraines or tension headaches, as all these conditions share similar symptoms, such as a sensitivity to light and noise. The difference is that sinus headaches are a specific reaction to inflammation of the sinuses, which are the air-filled cavities in your forehead and cheeks and around your nose and eyes. Because of this, a sinus headache may start off feeling like congestion, and then turn into something more painful.

In addition to throbbing pain and pressure in the head and the face, those suffering from a sinus headache often experience concentrated pain in one specific area of the face. The amount of pain generally increases with any quick movements, rapid changes in temperature, or with touching of the face. The pain from a sinus headache also tends to be most severe in the morning.

You may be at an increased risk for sinus headaches if you:

  • Have a history of asthma or allergies
  • Frequently swim or dive
  • Spend a lot of time flying
  • Enjoy climbing, especially to high altitudes
  • Suffer from nasal polyps or bone spurs
  • Suffer from a deviated septum or cleft palate

Sinus headaches can be treated with prescription antibiotics or corticosteroids, though your doctor may also recommend certain lifestyle changes to prevent you from getting them in the future.

Sinus Infections

Chronic sinus infections are a kind of sinusitis. Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses, typically lasting between 4-8 weeks, though in cases of chronic sinusitis, patients have been known to suffer allergic inflammation lasting 8 weeks or more.

Another reaction to inflammation of the sinus and nasal passages, sinus infections surpass sinus headaches in severity when illness or allergies cause mucus to become trapped by the sinuses, prompting the infection to spread. While sinus headaches are a part of sinus infections, sinus infections come with a host of other symptoms as well. These include fever and fatigue, postnasal drip and sore thought, coughing and nasal congestion, all in addition to the pain and pressure patients often feel from their forehead down to their neck.

As per the case with sinus headaches, antibiotics and steroids may be used to treat sinus infections. However, the effectiveness of antibiotics may depend on whether you have a bacterial or viral sinus infection. If a specialist diagnoses you with the latter, you may have to seek alternative treatment options, such as over-the-counter medications. It is critical to schedule an appointment with a professional if you feel a sinus infection getting worse, as you do not want to end up treating the problem in a way that causes the infection to last longer.

You may be at an increased risk for sinus headaches if you:

  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Have suffered a recent upper respiratory infection
  • Have suffered from nasal polyps
  • Have a deviated septum
  • Have a history of allergies
  • Use tobacco

Consult With a Board-Certified Allergy Specialist in Metro Atlanta

At the Center for Allergy and Asthma of Georgia, we believe that all sinus conditions deserve comprehensive treatment, from periodic headaches to chronic infections. Our board-certified team of specialists accept a wide variety of insurance plans, and are committed to working with patients to find cost-effective ways to offer treatment. For our Georgia allergists, it’s all about providing relief; relief from sinus problems, from allergies, from asthma, and from the other sinonasal and upper respiratory conditions which are holding you back in life.

Call (404) 994-3574 today fort scheduling options, or fill out our contact form online to request an appointment.