Weather could be causing your headache


Published: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

Been feeling a bit under the weather lately?

Facts

SIGNS OF A SINUS HEADACHE

Dull or severe pressure-like pain in one specific area of the face or head.
Facial tenderness.
Pain aggravated by sudden movements of the head, especially bending forward. Pain is worse in the morning because mucus has been collecting, draining all night.
Sudden temperature changes worsen the pain.
Headache often starts when you have a bad cold or are just getting over one.

In fact, the temperatures in North Central Florida in recent days may be giving you a headache.

A change in barometric pressure can bring on an attack of acute sinusitis, according to Dr. Innocent Odocha, a Gainesville family physician who has seen his share of cases.

"Two days after a sinus headache hits, some patients will be in the office," Odocha said. In most cases, he advises, the condition will go away on its own.

Sinuses are the air cavities in the bones around your nasal passages. When the sinuses become clogged or infected, the resulting pressure can cause a headache.

Symptoms include pain in the front of the head and around the eyes, yellow or green nasal discharge and perhaps a fever.

If the sinus cavities are slow to equalize air pressure, a headache results. Damp, cold weather can intensify sinus pain.

Viruses are the principal causes of sinus infections, Odocha said. Swelling and congestion in the lining of your nose can obstruct the relatively small openings to the sinuses, decreasing ventilation and drainage.

When it is colder, Odocha points out, you tend to spend more time indoors, and that exposes you to more allergens — mold, dust, perfume, smoke from fireplaces.

It also increases the incidence of colds. The best way to avoid picking up a virus in winter is to follow common-sense precautions, the physician said. Wash your hands. Stay away from someone who is sick. Keep hydrated by drinking lots of water.

Steam from the shower will act as a natural decongestant for sinus headache sufferers, making the mucus a lot thinner so that it can drain without medication.

More than 100 viruses that can give you a cold are out in force during the winter, so the chances are that more germs are exchanged this time of year than holiday gifts.

The way you "catch" a cold is either by air — sneeze or cough from the infected person — or by personal contact such as a handshake or a kiss.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, adults average two to four colds a year, while schoolchildren can have as many as a dozen colds annually.

Best defense against catching a cold? Practice good personal hygiene. Wash your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.

If your cold symptoms linger for longer than 14 days, you are probably developing a bacterial sinus infection. At that point, Odocha said, you may want to begin taking an antibiotic such as amoxicillin.

Antibiotic resistance is making even common infections, such as sinusitis, challenging to treat.

If the doctor prescribes an antibiotic, it is important that you take all the medication just as your doctor instructs, even if your symptoms are gone before the medicine runs out.

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