This is one of the most overused diagnoses in medicine. Where did it come from? I think doctors are responsible. Patients don’t like to hear, you have a cold, take two aspirins and call me in the morning. Instead, doctors often give the patient doctor-speak and relate it to a real anatomic finding. Sad to say, a sinus headache sounds better to the patient. Unfortunately, sometimes, the patient is even given an antibiotic. Don’t be fooled. Unnecessary antibiotics can be serious, especially in the development of resistant superbugs. No question there are sinus headaches, but there is an algorithm to describe it. A real sinus headache has a fever, yellow nasal discharge, point tenderness on the face, and a CT scan that shows evidence of sinusitis.
A common virus can cause a runny nose, muscle aching, a low-grade fever, and a headache. Antibiotics won’t help. Allergies can cause a clear runny nose, no fever, and headaches. Antibiotics won’t help. Grinding your teeth or TMJ dysfunction can cause headaches that may mimic a sinus headache. Antibiotics won’t help. Migraine headaches cause one-sided headaches, visual disturbances, and a runny nose. Antibiotics won’t help. My advice: be an informed consumer and be careful before taking un-needed antibiotics.