Migraine and Sinus Headache – How Do You Get It and What’s The Difference

Many patients present to me in the clinic and say- ‘ Doc I have a Sinus problem.’

Most of them turn out to have allergies or just a simple cold. 

In today’s article, I am going to bring out the differences between a Migraine headache, Sinus headache, and allergic symptoms or common cold. With COVID-19 around, we will also look at the differences between the symptoms of a COVID-19 infection and acute sinusitis.

Difference between a Sinus headache and Allergy

A clear cut case of Acute Sinusitis presents with the following steps – Viral infection of the nose sets off sneezing, nasal congestion, and fever. If this does not resolve in about 5 days, a Secondary Bacterial infection sets in- the discharge becomes thick and yellow with postnasal drip, there is increased nasal congestion and blockage with associated headache and cheek pain – this is Sinusitis.

Most patients usually have symptoms better explained by Allergy- Sneezing, clear watery nasal discharge, nasal itching, nasal congestion, eyes itching, and watering. An allergy can also cause a headache (commonly known as an allergy headache).

Migraine vs Sinus Headache: Know the difference

Watch this video to understand: 

  • Causes and symptoms a migraine headache
  • Causes and symptoms of a sinus headache

COVID-19 infection versus Acute Bacterial Sinusitis

The Coronavirus is also known to attack the sinuses – the virus lodges in and replicates in the Sinus tissues.

The differences between a Coronavirus infection and a regular case of Acute Sinusitis are:

  • Covid-19 patients are usually sicker with other symptoms of fever, cough, breathlessness.
  • Covid-19 – some patients complain of complete loss of sense of smell and taste as the first symptom of the infection- it seems the virus travels along the nerve root of the Olfactory nerve. It is also possible that these patients may have some neurological symptoms as well.
  • Covid-19 patients do not usually have the thick purulent nasal discharge so typical of a Sinus infection

In conclusion, please remember if your headache is severe and does not subside in 2-3 days, it is best to consult your doctor immediately.

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