In order to understand why people get headaches, sinus pain, and pressure with the onset of cold weather, it is important to learn what sinuses are and what can cause sinus irritation.
Our bodies have a total of 8 sinus cavities that are positioned around the face: a pair situated behind the cheekbones (called the Maxillary sinuses), a pair in the forehead above the eyes (Frontal sinuses), a pair between the eyes (Ethmoid sinuses), and a pair behind the eyes (Sphenoid sinuses). Each sinus cavity contains a small hollow space about the size of a matchbox. These 8 cavities have a direct connection to the nasal passage. The lining of the sinus cavities consists of a sensitive mucous membrane that is densely populated with blood vessels, which contains very fine microscopic hair-like cilia.
Sinusitis occurs when the sinuses become inflamed and irritated for any reason (whether caused by bacterial, viral, fungal, or chemical means). Bacterial infections are the most common cause of sinusitis. Allergies can also cause irritation of the sinus cavities. Symptoms of sinusitis can include headaches behind the eyes, headaches around the temples, stuffy nose, nasal discharge, pain across the forehead, discomfort when the head is lowered, bad breath, tooth sensitivity, and loss of sense of smell.
During the coldest months of the year, people spend more time indoors, breathing re-circulated dry air instead of fresh outdoor air. Without sufficient moisture, the sinus cavities can dry out and become swollen. This prevents the body’s natural mucous from flowing freely. In addition, air ducts easily accumulate dust, mold, spores, mildew, pollen, bacteria, pet dander and other contaminants. These unhealthy particulates irritate the sinuses, especially in individuals who are allergic or particularly sensitive to certain irritants.
The weather itself can also cause sinus headaches. Changes in weather patterns can cause shifts in barometric pressure. This shift in pressure can negatively impact already swollen and sensitive regions of the body, particularly swollen joints in the spine, hands, and knees, (in the case of arthritis) and inflamed sinus cavities. For this reason, some people experience intense sinus pain, pressure, and headaches during seasonal changes or even small alterations in weather patterns.
Certain foods are believed to increase inflammation and sinus pressure. For example, excessive consumption of dairy products and refined sugars may worsen sinusitis. For this reason it is necessary to be mindful of what you eat during the fall and winter holidays.
Consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis if you believe yourself to be suffering from sinus pressure or headaches.