Are sinus infections contagious? Yes, in some cases, bacteria or viruses that cause sinusitis can be spread from person to person.
In this guide, you’ll find out the answer to this question and more information about sinus infection prevention, treatment and symptoms.
Table of Contents
What Are the Causes Sinus Infections?
Sinus infections, also known as sinusitis, occur when the air-filled pockets (sinuses) in the face become congested with fluid, allowing bacteria and viruses to grow.
Most cases of sinus infection are caused by viruses; however, in some cases bacteria may be responsible. Other causes include bacteria, fungi, and allergies to things like pollen or pet dander.
Are Sinus Infections Contagious?
The answer to whether sinus infections are contagious depends largely on the cause. Sinus infections that are caused by a virus, such as a cold or the flu, can be very contagious and spread quite easily through droplets when a person coughs, sneezes, or talks loudly.
Allergic sinus infections, on the other hand, are not typically contagious and can only be passed on if exposure to allergens is shared between people.
Therefore, it is important to practice preventive measures like good handwashing and social distancing in order to help limit the spread of viruses that can cause sinusitis.
What Are the Symptoms of a Sinus Infection?
Common symptoms of a sinus infection may include nasal congestion or obstruction in one or both nostrils, facial pain and pressure, thick nasal discharge that is yellow or greenish in color, headaches and postnasal drip.
Other symptoms often associated with a sinus infection are fever and feeling tired all the time. In some cases, severe sinus infections may lead to nausea, vomiting and double vision.
Chronic Sinusitis Vs Acute Sinusitis
Chronic Sinusitis and Acute Sinusitis are both forms of sinus infection that affect the sinuses, but there are distinct differences between the two.
Acute sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses that often occurs after a cold but only lasts for up to 12 weeks.
Chronic sinusitis can develop after multiple bouts of acute sinusitis and symptoms may last for longer than 12 weeks. Fever is not usually associated with chronic sinusitis, but it is a common symptom of acute sinusitis.
Symptoms of Chronic Sinusitis
- Nasal inflammation
- A runny nose with thick and discolored discharge
- Postnasal drainage
- Blocked or congested nose
- Tenderness and swelling around eyes, cheeks, nose and forehead
- Reduced sense of smell and taste
Symptoms of Acute Sinusitis
- May include all of the above in addition to ear pain, headaches, upper jaw and teeth aching, coughing and throat clearing, sore throat, bad breath, fatigue and fever.
How Can I Avoid Getting a Sinus Infection?
The best way to avoid getting a sinus infection is to practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands frequently and avoiding sharing personal items or coming in contact with those who are ill.
Additionally, reducing your stress levels and controlling allergies can help decrease the risk of developing a sinus infection.
Avoiding exposure to cigarette smoke, using a humidifier and drinking plenty of fluids may also reduce your risk of getting a sinus infection.
How Are Sinus Infections Diagnosed and Treated?
Sinus infections can usually be diagnosed based on your symptoms, medical history and a physical examination.
In some cases, a CT scan or an X-ray may be recommended to help determine the cause of your infection.
Treatment typically involves using decongestants, antibiotics and other medications to reduce the duration of the infection.
Additionally, irrigating with a saline solution may assist in thinning mucus and alleviating congestion associated with the sinus infection.
What Are the Sinus Infections Home Remedies?
There are a few home remedies that can help with to relieve sinus pain and pressure:
- Try placing a warm compress over your nose and forehead;
- Use a decongestant or saline nasal spray;
- Take a hot shower or breath in steam from a bowl of hot water.
These are all simple, easy ways to fight off the symptoms of sinus infections at home.
Sinus Infections Antibiotics: Is It Necessary?
It largely depends on your particular case. Many such infections get better on their own without needing medical intervention.
Taking antibiotics can lead to unpleasant side effects and, in more serious cases, cause further health problems such as antibiotic-resistant infections or C. diff infection.
Thus, unless it is absolutely necessary, your doctor may instead recommend watchful waiting or delayed prescribing of antibiotics – that way, the immune system is given time to fight off the illness first before committing to a course of medication.
Ultimately, discussing with a doctor is the best way of finding out what treatment plan would be most effective for you.
How long are you contagious when you have a sinus infection?
If you’ve contracted a sinus infection caused by a viral infection, you can expect to be contagious with the virus for up to two weeks. The duration of your symptoms will last about seven to 10 days, so you should be aware that you may be contagious for that period of time. However, if your symptoms last longer than 10 days or come back after subsiding for a few days, then you likely have a bacterial sinus infection that cannot be spread.
How can you tell if a sinus infection is viral or bacterial?
It can be hard to tell the difference, but here’s a clue: if it lasts more than a week, there’s a good chance it’s bacterial. Viral infections usually start to get better after a few days, while bacterial ones tend to persist for at least 10 days or longer and can eventually get worse over time.
How do I prevent the spread of a contagious sinus infection?
To protect yourself and others from a contagious sinus infection, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. If you are experiencing symptoms of sinusitis, make sure to cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and be sure to wash your hands afterwards to help prevent the spread of germs. It is also important to try to keep away from people with colds or flu-like symptoms.
How to tell the difference between a sinus infection and the flu?
Generally, aches in the body will be much more localized with a sinus infection than with a flu virus. This pain is often concentrated in the face, jaw, throat and sinuses. Additionally, those with a sinus infection may have a cough that only appears at night. While some coughing can occur with both illnesses, those suffering from severe sinusitis usually experience it only during the night.
How do you test for a sinus infection?
To test for a sinus infection, a doctor will administer a spray to numb the nose and then insert an endoscope – a thin flexible device with a tiny lens at the end – inside to get a detailed view of your sinuses. In some cases, a CT scan may also be needed to examine deeper levels of inflammation.
Can a sinus infection be spread through kissing?
No, the sinus infection itself isn’t contagious, but the underlying cause may be, so it’s best to avoid kissing someone when you have a sinus infection.
How can I tell the difference between a sinus infection and COVID-19?
Trying to differentiate between a sinus infection or allergies with COVID-19 can be tricky. While runny nose may be a symptom of COVID-19, there are other symptoms that will help you pinpoint the difference. Symptoms more indicative of COVID-19 include gastrointestinal issues, fever, body aches and loss of taste or smell. These are not common to a sinus infection or allergies.