Does Drinking Coffee Affect the Sinuses?

Coffee is enjoyed for its flavor and for the caffeine that can help wake you up and provide a temporary boost of energy. According to the Mayo Clinic, for most people a cup or two of coffee doesn't cause an adverse reaction although it may disrupt your ability to fall asleep or relax. Caffeine, however, is also an ingredient used in over-the-counter medications to treat sinus congestion and may reduce inflamed blood vessels in the nasal cavities. In other cases, coffee may simply elicit an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to its naturally occurring compounds. Check with your doctor if you are experiencing sinus problems.

Sinus Problems

The air you breathe makes its way to your lungs by way of the sinuses, which are a group of four hollows that lie just below your skull. The hollows, known as sinus cavities, are lined by a thin tissue that contains glands that secrete mucous. When this tissue becomes inflamed by illness or allergy, you can experience a runny nose or nasal congestion. Your body elicits a response to an antigen such as bacteria or viruses or to an irritant by triggering increased secretion of mucous in the sinuses combined with swelling of the tissue.

Coffee Allergy and Sinuses

If you have an allergy or sensitivity to coffee, consuming it can cause a narrowing of the sinus passages. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology explains that an allergic reaction can range from mild to severe. Mild symptoms of a coffee allergy can include a stuffy nose, sneezing and pressure or pain in the area around your sinuses. A severe allergic reaction can cause complete closure of your airways and is a medical emergency. Over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines and decongestants can help decrease the allergic response but does not cure an allergy.

Coffee and Other Sinus Conditions

Pre-existing sinus conditions such as seasonal allergies or sinusitis can be made either better or worse by the consumption of coffee. The steam that emanates from a cup of coffee can help to relieve inflammation and open your sinuses, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. In addition, because caffeine in coffee is a vasoconstrictor, it can reduce swelling of blood vessels in and around your nasal passages. If you have an allergy to commonly used ingredients added to coffee such as milk or cinnamon, eliminating these substances can help decrease sinus congestion.


It's important to stay adequately hydrated If you are experiencing sinus problems, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Coffee has a mild diuretic effect that increases the amount of water your body excretes. Because coffee can lead to dehydration, water should be emphasized to provide the mucous membranes with moisture that can draw out antigens. If you have sinus congestion that is accompanied by a fever of more than 102 degrees, significant pain in the sinus area or visible swelling around the eyes, see your doctor. These can be symptoms of a sinus infection requiring antibiotic treatment.

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