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What Is the Connection between Sinus Infection and Nausea?

By Henry Gaudet
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Sinus infection and nausea might appear to be unrelated, but an infection can cause many symptoms, including nausea. Mucus draining from the sinuses is more likely to run down the back of the throat and into the stomach rather than through the nostrils. Excessive levels of mucus in the stomach can produce feelings of nausea.

Sinusitis, or a sinus infection, is an inflammation of the sinuses. As the membranes surrounding the sinuses swell, the sinuses are squeezed shut. Pressure from the swollen tissue and trapped mucus can cause a wide range of symptoms, including headache, post-nasal drip, fever and nausea.

Most often, sinusitis is caused by a respiratory infection or an allergic reaction. Any condition that causes inflammation of the sinus membranes can cause a sinus infection. When sinuses become swollen, mucus is unable to drain properly and becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Some people are naturally more prone to sinus infection and nausea than other people are. Allergy sufferers and asthmatics are likely to experience regular inflammations. Individuals who have growths such as nasal polyps have less space available for inflammation, and less swelling is needed to block the sinuses. A deviated septum of cleft palate might cause similar vulnerability to these symptoms. Swimmers are more vulnerable as well, as are frequent flyers who regularly experience changes in air pressure.

Many of the symptoms of a sinus infection are quite general, and what appear to be a sinus infection with nausea might be another condition or conditions. Tension and anxiety, for instance, can result in an upset stomach and headache. Migraine headaches can be intense and might cause nausea as well. Chronic sinusitis, which involves regular or prolonged inflammation, is especially difficult to diagnose and might require imaging tests to confirm.

After a sinus infection has been diagnosed, treating them usually will require a visit to the doctor. The body does have a natural ability to fight infection, but if the infection is severe enough to cause nausea, consultation with a medical professional is recommended. Depending on the symptoms and severity, medical treatments are likely to include a combination of antibiotics, antihistamines, decongestants and corticosteroids. Cases of chronic sinus infection caused by bone spurs or polyps might require surgery.

For those more vulnerable to sinus infections, steps can be taken to limit the risk. Smoking not only irritates the sinus membrane but reduces the body’s ability to fight infection. When possible, known allergens should be avoided. Humidifiers might be useful, and inhaling steam a few times each day can help keep swelling down as well.

How Do You Stop Sinus Nausea?

Nausea is never comfortable, but combining it with other sinus infection symptoms is downright miserable. You need to manage the inflammation and drainage as much as the upset stomach to find any relief. 

How To Manage Sinus Nausea With Medication

Over-the-counter medications can help, and some doctors might prescribe stronger products for chronic sinusitis. It’s important to note that antibiotics can make nausea worse and won’t treat a viral sinus infection, so you might want to try other avenues first. 

What Are Some Home Remedies for Sinus Nausea

Home remedies have been known to alleviate nausea, settle an upset stomach, and help with other sinus infection symptoms. Some of the best options are to:

  • Drink a lot of hot fluids. Green teas and herbal teas, especially chamomile and peppermint, can help break up the drainage and settle your stomach.
  • Eat some ginger because it has anti-inflammatory properties and eases nausea.
  • Use a humidifier or inhale steam to ease your nasal passages and reduce inflammation.
  • Try using essential oils in an oil diffuser, hot shower, or in a bowl of steaming water. Inhale the vapor to find some relief for your sinus pressure and nausea.

Using home remedies is something you can do at any stage of a sinus infection to find relief. It’s a good idea to keep supplies on hand if you suffer from chronic sinus pressure, sinusitis, and related nausea.

How To Stop Sinus Nausea With Lifestyle Changes 

You might need to make some lifestyle changes if you experience chronic sinus infections and related nausea. 

  • Sleep with your head propped up so that the drainage doesn’t collect in your nasal passages and make things worse.
  • Limit or avoid consuming dairy because the bacteria can make everything worse.
  • Use a saline spray or inhale steam daily to help manage congestion.
  • Avoid smoking which can aggravate the nasal passages and increase mucus production.
  • Practice yoga or head and neck stretches to keep the nasal passages open and reduce pressure on the sinuses.

If you experience chronic sinus infections with nausea, you might want to discuss your options with your physician. They might be able to prescribe additional medications or treatments to help you reduce the severity of symptoms.

Can a Sinus Infection Cause Diarrhea?

Yes, a sinus infection can cause diarrhea and vomiting in some cases. The excess mucus can irritate the digestive system and cause diarrhea. Additionally, some medications prescribed for sinus infections can cause diarrhea.

It’s important to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Warm broth and sports drinks are excellent options for staying hydrated and offsetting the taste of mucus in the back of your throat. 

While eating food often sounds terrible when you experience nausea, it can help alleviate some symptoms and help you rebound faster. Foods with high potassium and fiber content to help with your stools. Try bananas, potatoes, oatmeal, and rice.

Can Postnasal Drip Make You Nauseous?

Yes, postnasal drip can cause nausea. It is an overproduction of mucus due to allergies, asthma, the common cold, or sinusitis. The excess drainage can also cause bad breath, coughing, sore throat, and acid reflux. 

Can You Have a Sinus Infection Without Mucus?

People don’t always experience nasal discharge with a sinus infection, but it’s uncommon. Sinus pressure comes from a buildup of mucus in the sinus cavities which eventually drains through the nasal passages. That said, sinus pressure does not necessarily indicate a sinus infection.

It’s entirely possible to have sinus pressure without drainage but still have nausea. The pain related to sinus pressure and headaches can be severe enough to cause dizziness and nausea.

Of note, sinus infections and headaches can be mistaken for migraines, which also cause nausea. Migraines and sinus headaches affect the same areas of the head and face. The symptoms are so similar that even physicians can’t always differentiate immediately. 

  • Nausea and vomiting are more common with migraines than sinus headaches.
  • Sinus infections typically have discolored nasal mucus, while migraines have clear drainage if any.
  • Migraines usually cause sensitivity to light and sound.

Headaches related to sinus pressure and infections typically last longer than migraines. Most migraine symptoms resolve within a day or two, while sinus-related headaches can last more than a week.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By clwjr60 — On Nov 08, 2020

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By anon996401 — On Aug 24, 2016

The article and comments are very helpful. I've never really suffered from congestion and when I started to, I never went through nausea but today, I am. This is new to me and I just want some relief because I don't feel like eating due to my nausea.

By serenesurface — On Sep 28, 2013

@fify-- I think the cause of the nausea is sinus drainage. I have it too. When my doctor drains out my sinuses, I feel much better. I also eat a lot of dry crackers when I have nausea from sinusitis.

By ysmina — On Sep 27, 2013

@fify-- Yes, that is very much possible. Sinus infections cause congestion and a change in air pressure. As far as I know, our throat, nose, ears and sinuses are all connected via passageways. So when there is an infection in one, the others will also get affected.

You're also absolutely right about change in inner ear pressure causing nausea. This is probably why you are having this symptom. You should see a doctor to have your sinuses treated.

I always take an over-the-counter medication for congestion when I have sinus dizziness and nausea. It helps.

By fify — On Sep 26, 2013

I know that vertigo can cause nausea and vertigo is related to the air pressure inside the ears. Is it possible for a sinus infection to cause change in ear pressure and lead to nausea?

I'm not sure if I have a sinus infection, but my sinuses have been very congested all week. I have sinus pressure, a constant headache, lightheadedness and nausea that comes and goes.

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