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How to Reduce Face Swelling

By Irene A. Blake ; Updated July 27, 2017

Facial swelling can happen at any time for any reason. Treating or reducing swelling not only helps to disperse any potential cosmetic embarrassment that facial swelling can lead to in public situations, but can help with treating a greater or serious underlying medical condition. No matter the cause, you can reduce facial swelling with a combination of home remedies and professional medical treatments.

Head position while sleeping

  1. Sleep with your head propped up with pillows or with your upper body elevated higher than your lower half. For example, after facial, jaw or brain surgery, elevating the upper half of your body—especially the head—can stop normal and drainage fluids from building under and in your facial tissue.

  2. Reduce your salt intake. Too much salt in your diet not only increases fluid retention by absorbing and holding fluid in body tissue (edema) in common swelling sites such as the ankles but also the face.

  3. Take an antihistamine. Your facial swelling may be the result of a reaction to an airborne or food allergen, allergic rhinitis or an insect sting. Take an antihistamine with a decongestant if you believe your swelling is from inflammation of your sinuses. Refer to Step 7 as you may have a sinus infection caused by a fungal, bacterial or viral source.

  4. Lay a cool moist towel or a wrapped ice pack on the swollen area. Cold treatments, commonly used by physical therapists for tissue and joint swelling, remove heat from tissue and cut off the transmission of signals through nerves, reducing pain, constricting tissue around blood vessels and cutting off blood flow and reducing general inflammation and swelling.

  5. Use an anti-inflammatory medication (pill or cream) to reduce the swelling along with any pain.

  6. Check your medication’s side effects and consult with your pharmacist, doctor or nurse for instructions on stopping or changing your medication if you believe it has caused your facial swelling.

  7. Ask your doctor to check for an infection or other underlying health condition that can cause swelling. If you have an infection or other condition, your doctor can help you create a treatment plan.

  8. Apply a warm compress to your eye for 10 minutes if you have a stye at least four times a day. Contact your doctor if the stye does not go away on its own. Your doctor may recommend the use of an antibiotic cream or outpatient surgical lancing to drain and clean out any infection.

  9. Warnings

    Immediately go a hospital emergency room or use an EpiPen if you have one if your face swells rapidly for any reason—especially with a food reaction or insect sting as the swelling could extend to your throat causing asphyxiation.

    Never use cool towels or ice packs longer than 10 minutes as the cold can cause tissue damage.

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