12 Cold symptoms: Headache

Cold symptoms: Headache

What causes this common symptom?

Immune System Expert
Ask Dr. Jen Tan

An introduction to headaches and the cold

One of the many unpleasant symptoms of the common cold is a headache. This can make day to day jobs more difficult, especially if your headache worsens when exposed to bright lights or when you bend over.

Most people find that their headache is concentrated around the forehead, eyes and cheekbones.

What causes headaches with a common cold?

The most likely cause of your headache is sinus congestion. When you have a cold, you often produce more mucus in your nose in order to flush out bacteria. However, if too much mucus is produced, or if your nasal passages become inflamed and swollen, then this mucus can become trapped, causing a blocked nose. 

This blockage can cause increased pressure in the head, particularly around your sinuses. These are hollow cavities in your skull that can be found around your nose, under your eyes and in your forehead. The sinuses themselves can also become swollen and inflamed. A tell-tale sign of sinus problems is a throbbing headache when you bend over. 

Looking at this diagram of the sinuses, it’s easy to see why headaches with the cold tend to be focused around the forehead, eyes and cheekbones.

Diagram of the sinuses

Are there home remedies to help me?

The best way to relieve the pressure in your sinuses and thus relieve your headache is to loosen any congestion in your nasal passages.

One way to do this is using steam inhalation. Fill a bowl with hot, steaming water and gently breathe the steam in through your nose. The heat and moisture can help to loosen congestion. Add a few drops of essential oils such as eucalyptus or peppermint (found in our Po-Ho Oil) to aid this process. 

We’d also recommend drinking plenty of water, as headaches can be worsened by dehydration. Extra water will also keep the mucus in your nose as thin as possible, helping it to drain better.

What about herbal remedies?

To treat the overall symptoms of a cold or flu, we’d recommend Echinaforce. The liquid tincture works fastest, but you may find the tablets more convenient. Echinacea helps to strengthen the immune system to help your body recover from a cold or flu.

You might find the Echinaforce Hot Drink particularly useful for relieving symptoms, and the heat of the drink can help to relieve congestion.

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To help relieve congestion specifically, a nasal spray such as our Sinuforce Nasal Spray may be useful. It contains essential oils such as eucalyptus and peppermint to help clear congestion, relieving the pressure on the sinuses. This should help to ease your headache.

What conventional medicines can I use?

Again, anything that helps to clear congestion can be good for headaches associated with a cold.

Decongestion tablets such as Sudafed can be helpful, but bear in mind that some contain paracetamol, so just make sure this doesn’t interfere with any other medication or pain killers you might be taking for your cold. Some decongestants also contain caffeine, so be wary about taking these in the evening – during the day, however, this caffeine can be useful to give you some extra energy when you’re feeling a bit sluggish and unwell.

Chemical-based nasal sprays can also be purchased from pharmacies and health stores, but these often have more contraindications than herbal varieties. 

Simple pain killers like Paracetamol can also help to ease headaches if you are struggling to relieve congestion around the sinuses.

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