Health: Common causes of a runny nose and headache

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 According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost everyone has experienced a headache in life. Everybody is susceptible to headache regardless of age or colour.

The UK’s Medical News Today, a web-based medical news outlet, stated that headache could be a sign of stress, emotional distress or medical disorder like migraine, high pressure, anxiety or depression.

On the other hand, a runny or stuffy nose occurs when the tissue lining the nose becomes swollen, according to the US’ MedlinePlus. The inflamed blood vessels may cause swelling.


Health experts have categorized headache into ten groups as follows:

(a) Tension: This type of headache makes you feel dull and experience an aching sensation all over your head.

(b) Cluster: Only occurs on one side of the face at a time. It causes severe burning and piercing pain.

(c) Migraine: Common signs of migraine are intense deep pain within your head. The pain can last for days.

(d) Allergy/sinus: This kind of pain transpires as a result of an allergy. Pain is usually around your sinus area or the front of your head.

(e) Hormone: Hormone headaches are common in women. The headache occurs due to hormonal fluctuation, mainly during menstruation or pregnancy.

(f) Caffeine: Taking much caffeine may lead to headache because it affects blood flow to your brain.

(g) Exertion: Intense physical activity may cause headache, although it does not last for long.

(h) Hypertension: Those suffering from high blood pressure are most likely to suffer from hypertension headaches. It occurs on both sides of the head.

(i) Rebound. Overuse of medication like Over-the-Counter (OTC) pain relievers causes rebound headache.

(j) Post-traumatic. A head injury may cause Post-traumatic headache, which may last up to 6 to 12 months.

Since a person with a runny nose and another with a headache exhibit common symptoms, knowledge of common causes of the diseases will lead to better treatment options.

1. Allergies

When your immune system overreacts to allergens, you will experience a runny nose and headache. Headache occurs due to nasal congestion. Common allergens are pollen and dust.


  • Running nose
  • Pain in the face around the cheeks and nose
  • Watery and itchy eyes


You can use OTC (over-the-counter) medications like antihistamines and nasal decongestants.

Avoid allergy triggers

2. Nasal polyps

These are growths in the nasal passages. An irritation from allergies, infections, or asthma may cause Polyps. Having too many nasal polyps can cause blockages in your nose and sinuses.


  • A reduced sense of smell
  • Difficulty breathing through your nose
  • Pressure around the eyes
  • Frequent sinus infections


You can treat nasal polyps by using steroids and saline washes.

3. Cold and flu

Viruses can cause cold and flu. The viral infection irritates your nose and throat, causing fluid to build up in your sinuses and nasal passages.


  • Nausea
  • Sore eyes
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Vomiting
  • Fever Chills
  • Muscle aches


Use OTC medications such as ibuprofen.

Home remedies such as steamy showers can cure a cold.

4. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

RSV is an infection of the lungs, nose and throat. This virus causes a mild headache and runny nose and is common among children.


  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue 
  • Cough
  • Fever Wheezing


Consult a medical expert before administering medicine to your children.

OTC cold medications are the best options here.

5. Sinusitis

Sinusitis commonly causes a runny nose, throbbing face and headache pain. It is a condition that leads to inflammation of the sinuses around your nose. The cold causes the sinuses to swell, block the nasal and sinus passageways; it finally leads to the accumulation of mucus.


  • Pressure around eyes, forehead or nose
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Discoloured and thick mucus
  • Breathing difficulty via your nose
  • Fatigue 
  • A feeling of fullness in the ear


Use antibiotics recommended by a medic or OTC medications.

6. Pregnancy

During the early stage of pregnancy, one experiences a runny nose and headache due to hormonal fluctuation. Nasal passages are likely to swell, causing congestion and pressure behind the eyes and in the forehead and sinus headaches.


  • Sneezing
  • A running nose


Visit your doctor to prescribe safe medications. You can also try the following activities: practising good posture, pregnancy yoga, getting more rest, neck and shoulder massage and eating well.

7. Migraines

Migraines are severe headache which affects one side of your head. They occur several times in a month or once in a while. Bright light, stress, lack of sleep, too much sleep and strong odour can trigger migraines. 


  • Clear fluid from the nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Throbbing pain
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Nausea
  • Changes in vision


When you experience at least two of these symptoms, you should consult your doctor.

8. Ear infections

Either a virus or bacteria can cause ear infections. Fluid from an ear infection can leak into the throat leading to nasal infection, causing a runny nose. Elsewhere, pressure and pain from the fluid build-up in the ear can cause a headache.

An ear infection is common among children because Eustachian tubes between their middle ear and throat are horizontal compared to adults,’ which are vertical.


  • Loss of hearing
  • Loss of balance
  • Fluid draining from the ear
  • Fever
  • Trouble sleeping


There are numerous treatment options for this illness:


Extra fluid

OTC decongestants

OTC pain medications

OTC ear drops

It is highly advisable to seek further medication from renowned medical experts if your runny nose and headache persist beyond two weeks.