Sinus pressure can occur when illness, injury, or allergies cause tissue swelling inside the nasal passages. The best medication for sinus pressure can vary, but decongestants, antihistamines, and other medications can help relieve it.

The best medication for sinus pressure will depend on several factors, including the cause of the problem and a person’s circumstances.

This article looks at some of the most suitable medications for sinus pressure.

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The sinuses are hollow spaces in the bones that surround the nose. They produce mucus to keep the nostrils clean and lubricated.

If an infection, allergy, or injury causes the tissue inside the nose to swell up, this can block the sinuses and lead to sinus pressure. A person may feel pressure or pain in their:

  • eyes
  • cheeks
  • forehead

People may also experience a stuffy or runny nose or a headache.

Common causes of sinus pressure include:

Decongestants narrow the blood vessels in the nose. This allows the swollen tissue to shrink and enables air to pass through the sinuses more easily.

Pill and spray decongestants are available. Pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine products are only suitable for adults and children over 4 years of age.

When taking over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants, it is important to follow the advice on the label. Additionally, people should not use more than one decongestant at once.

Sometimes, decongestants can interfere with prescription medicines. Anyone already taking prescription medication or who has one of the following medical conditions should also speak with their doctor before taking a decongestant:

The possible side effects of decongestants include:

Examples of decongestants include the following.

1. Naphazoline

Naphazoline is usually an eye drop product. People can use it if they have a cold, allergy, or eye irritation. Privine is a type of naphazoline.

2. Oxymetazoline

Oxymetazoline is a nasal spray. People can use it to relieve sinus pressure if they have a cold or allergies, including hay fever.

Afrin, Dristan, Nostrilla, and Vicks Sinus Nasal Spray are all types of oxymetazoline.

3. Phenylephrine

Phenylephrine can ease stuffiness and sinus pressure and is available as a pill or a nasal spray.

Neo-Synephrine, Sinex, Rhinall, and the pill form of Sudafed-PE all contain phenylephrine.

4. Pseudoephedrine

People with colds or allergies can use pseudoephedrine to ease sinus pressure. This medication comes in tablet or liquid form. Sudafed 12-hour tablets contain pseudoephedrine.

People can take antihistamines to treat allergies. Allergies occur when the immune system reacts to a substance that is not harmful and releases chemicals that doctors call histamines. For example, people may be allergic to pet dander, pollen, or dust.

Antihistamines block the effects of histamine and ease allergy symptoms, which can include sinus pressure.

The possible side effects of these medicines include:

People should speak with a doctor before taking antihistamines if they are pregnant or have the following health conditions:

Different types of antihistamines are available from drug stores or on prescription from a doctor. Some last between 4 and 6 hours, while others can last for 12–24 hours.

However, driving or operating heavy machinery after taking some types of antihistamines may not be safe. People should always follow the instructions on the packet.

Common types of antihistamines include the following.

5. Azelastine nasal sprays

Azelastine nasal spray is only available on prescription. Doctors may call it Astepro or Astelin.

Adults and children over the age of 6 years can use this medication. Azelastine has a half life — the time it takes for the amount of a drug’s active substance to reduce by half in the body — of around 20 hours.

6. Loratadine

Loratadine comes as a liquid or a tablet and is available over the counter. Claritin is its brand name.

Adults and children over the age of 2 years can use it. However, it is unsuitable for children who weigh less than 30 kilograms. People tend to use this medication just once a day.

OTC pain medication can also help ease the discomfort of sinus pressure.

Different medicines work in different ways and have different risks and side effects. People should always follow the instructions on the label.

Examples of OTC pain medications include the following.

7. Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen changes the way the body senses pain. It is available as a tablet or liquid.

People should always follow the instructions on the packet and only take one product containing acetaminophen at a time. This is because taking too much can cause liver damage. Additionally, anyone who is allergic to acetaminophen should not take it.

Possible serious side effects of acetaminophen include:

  • a rash
  • hives
  • itching
  • swelling in the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • red, irritated, or peeling skin
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing

Anyone who experiences any of these side effects should seek emergency medical attention.

8. Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen is a type of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It works by reducing swelling, which can help ease sinus pressure.

Anyone who is allergic to ibuprofen should not take this medication. Additionally, some people who are allergic to aspirin are also allergic to ibuprofen.

In some individuals, ibuprofen can cause bleeding in the gut. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), people who are most at risk are:

  • those aged 60 years or over
  • those who have had stomach ulcers or bleeding problems in the past
  • anyone who is also taking a blood thinning or steroid drug
  • anyone who is also taking another NSAID, such as aspirin or naproxen
  • anyone who has three or more alcoholic drinks daily while also taking ibuprofen
  • people who take ibuprofen for longer periods

Other medications that may help ease sinus pressure include the following.

9. Steroids

Steroid nasal sprays can ease the swelling that leads to sinus pressure. They are available over the counter and on prescription from a doctor.

They are generally safe, but as with all medicines, they can pose risks. For example, some people may get nose bleeds. In rare cases, steroid nasals sprays can cause eye problems, such as glaucoma and cataracts.

10. Antibiotics

Bacterial infections can sometimes cause sinus pressure. When this is the case, antibiotics will clear the underlying infection.

These medications are only available from a doctor, who will usually recommend taking them for between 3 and 28 days.

Common side effects include:

Other treatments for sinus pressure include:

  • Inhaling steam: Inhaling the steam from a bowl of hot water or a warm shower can help ease the symptoms of sinus pressure.
  • Warming compress: A person can try placing a warm compress over the nose and forehead.
  • Drinking lots of fluids: It is always important to stay hydrated when experiencing illness.
  • Using a saline nasal spray: According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, rinsing the nose with a saline spray can help clear the nasal passages.

Sinus pressure can feel like a pain or tightness around the eyes, nose, and forehead. It is usually a symptom of an infection, allergy, or injury.

There are many medicines for sinus pressure, including decongestants and antihistamines. The right one depends on several factors, including the cause of the problem.