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Facial swelling can occur for several reasons. In many cases, a person can reduce swelling with ice and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. However, some conditions may require additional treatment and care.

In this article, we discuss how to reduce facial swelling from a range of causes.

A woman with a broken nose speaks with her doctor about how to reduce swelling in the face as they review her x-rays.Share on Pinterest
Ice and over-the-counter medications can help reduce facial swelling.

A broken nose can cause swelling around the eyes and face.

According to a 2016 article, swelling of the nose can occur within hours of the injury.

To treat a broken nose, a healthcare professional can perform closed reduction. They will set the nose back into its original position once the swelling resolves. The procedure should ideally be within 10–14 days of the injury.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), a broken nose should fully heal within 3 weeks.

In the meantime, to reduce the swelling, a person can:

  • apply an ice pack wrapped in a tea towel to the nose for 15 minutes, a few times a day
  • take acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • keep the head upright when in bed

Learn more about recognizing a broken nose here.

Bruises occur when tiny blood vessels break open, allowing blood to spill into nearby areas and tissue under the skin. A person may feel pain, while the skin can appear discolored and swollen at the injury site.

If a bruise causes swelling, a person can apply an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel.

The swelling should reduce quickly, but if it remains, a person should see a doctor.

Learn more about how to heal a bruised face here.

Allergies occur when the immune system perceives a harmless substance as a potential threat and reacts against it.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), allergies can cause angioedema.

Angioedema is a buildup of fluids under the skin that causes swelling. When angioedema happens, it often occurs around the eyes, face, and lips.

A person should see a doctor if they experience this swelling for the first time, or if it feels uncomfortable.

A person should seek immediate medical assistance if swelling makes breathing difficult, or a substantial portion of the body becomes swollen.

Healthcare professionals consider angioedema of the throat to be a medical emergency.

To prevent angioedema, a person should avoid their known triggers. However, if a reaction occurs, a person can take oral antihistamines. They should also carry an epinephrine auto-injector for any severe reactions.

Angioedema may be the result of several different allergens or exposures, including:

  • food
  • water
  • pet dander
  • pollen
  • latex
  • hot or cold temperatures
  • medications
  • insect bites

Sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinuses, and the most common cause is infection.

The sinuses produce extra mucus, which results in a stuffy and runny nose, as well as facial swelling and discomfort.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, up to 70% of those with acute sinusitis will recover without prescribed medication.

To reduce the swelling, the AAFA recommend:

  • Steam inhalation or nasal irrigation: A person can rinse their nose using a neti pot. If someone wishes to carry out a steam inhalation, they should breathe hot steam through the nose for 10–15 minutes, three to four times a day.
  • Antibiotics: If there is a bacterial infection present, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
  • Nasal steroids: These can help reduce inflammation and swelling.
  • Oral steroid: These are typically for severe chronic sinusitis.

A person can also use a hot pack to help relieve swelling or take OTC pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Those aged 18 years and older can take aspirin.

Learn more about how to flush sinuses safely here.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that a person should see a doctor if they have:

  • a severe headache or facial pain
  • worsening symptoms after initially improving
  • symptoms that do not improve and last longer than 10 days
  • fever that lasts longer than 3–4 days

Facial swelling can occur when a person has had a facelift or dermal fillers.

Facelift

After facial surgery, a person is likely to have swelling on the face for several days.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, a person can expect swelling from a facelift to be at its worst 3–4 days after surgery. The swelling typically remains for several weeks.

They recommend that a person take any prescribed medications for pain and swelling.

A person should also talk to their doctor about postsurgery care and recovery, and attend any follow-up appointments.

Proper follow-up care can help prevent the incision from becoming infected and monitor side effects such as swelling.

Dermal fillers

According to a 2017 article in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, if swelling occurs within 2 weeks of getting dermal fillers, a person can apply ice or cold packs. They can also use warm compresses.

The swelling should settle within a few hours or the day. In some cases, it can last for several weeks.

If swelling occurs after 2 weeks, a person should see a doctor to find the cause. Treatment can include oral steroids.

Dental procedures and dental abscesses can cause facial swelling.

Tooth removal

Dental procedures, such as tooth extraction, can cause swelling to occur on the face.

According to one study, the use of ice packs following dental surgery is a good way to reduce swelling. The study also reports that corticosteroids can help reduce postprocedure swelling.

A person’s age, general health, and procedure will affect the length of recovery, but swelling should typically reduce within a few days.

A person should talk to their dentist or doctor if swelling, pain, or other symptoms do not improve after a few days.

Learn more about tooth extraction aftercare here.

Dental abscess

The American Dental Association (ADA) state that a person may have facial swelling if they have a dental abscess.

If a person has the following symptoms over the affected tooth, they should see a dentist as soon as possible:

  • tenderness
  • temperature sensitivity
  • sensitive to pressure
  • the tooth is raised and feels loose
  • swelling in the face or gums
  • bleeding gums
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • fever
  • loss of appetite

The treatment involves having a dentist or maxillofacial surgeon drain the pus and clean the area. They may also prescribe antibiotics.

To control the pain, a person should take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. They could also apply clove oil to help numb the area.

Purchase clove oil online here.

If the swelling is severe or presents in the eyes or neck, a person should seek immediate medical attention.

Cellulitis is an inflammation of the skin. It results from infection and can spread quickly.

According to Johns Hopkins University, there are several potential causes of cellulitis that may occur on the face.

They include:

  • animal or human bite
  • exposure to contaminated water
  • certain germs that commonly infect people with suppressed immune systems
  • Streptococcus bacteria

According to the ADA, untreated dental abscesses can also cause cellulitis on the face.

A person should talk to their doctor if they have unexplained swelling, swelling that rapidly spreads, an eye swollen shut, or trouble swallowing.

Treating cellulitis depends on the severity of the case. Some treatments for cellulitis include:

  • using antibiotics to treat the infection
  • using prednisone to help with inflammation
  • treating any related conditions

These therapies typically take 5–10 days.

A person should talk to their doctor about the best treatment options for their situation.

Some swelling in pregnancy is normal, but if a pregnant woman notices swelling in their face after 20 weeks, it can indicate an issue.

Preeclampsia is a potentially serious complication of pregnancy. It presents with high blood pressure and other abnormal findings, and it can be life threatening to both the woman and baby.

Other than facial swelling, symptoms can include:

  • hypertension
  • protein in the urine
  • sudden weight gain
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • irritability
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • changes in vision

In some cases, a pregnant woman may not experience any symptoms of preeclampsia.

Facial swelling related to preeclampsia generally resolves after the delivery. If the case is mild, it may be possible to wait for delivery at term.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, treatment for mild preeclampsia may involve bed rest and close monitoring. However, at 37 weeks of pregnancy, healthcare professionals may recommend inducing labor.

If a woman passes 34 weeks of pregnancy and experiences severe preeclampsia, healthcare professionals may recommend delivering as soon as the condition is stable. They may prescribe corticosteroid therapy to help the fetus’s lungs mature.

Learn more about preeclampsia here.

The cause of swelling can determine the best ways to reduce it or keep it under control.

In most cases, a person will need to treat any underlying conditions to reduce facial swelling.

Some common ways to treat swelling include ice packs and medications to reduce associated pain.

People should see their doctor if they have symptoms, have trouble breathing, or their symptoms do not improve.