Also called sinusitis or rhinosinusitis, a sinus infection can cause several uncomfortable symptoms, including a stuffy nose, headache and swelling around the eyes. Sinusitis can sometimes be painful, but it is rarely serious. As the pain and inflammation is due to infected sinuses, many people want to know if sinus infections are contagious. Now let's find out!
Are Sinus Infections Contagious?
Viral Infection: When a virus is responsible for sinusitis, it is possible to spread it to others through bodily fluids. However, it is important to point out that while a viral sinus infection can make others sick, it may not necessarily cause a sinus infection and most commonly a cold may happen.
Bacterial Infection: When your sinuses stay blocked for long enough, bacteria may grow in the mucus and cause certain complications. You are likely to have bacterial sinusitis if your symptoms of sinusitis last more than two weeks. As it is a bacterial infection, you cannot spread it to others.
Other Causes: You have chronic sinusitis if your symptoms last for more than 12 weeks. This could happen due to polyps, allergies, or a deviated septum. Exposure to dry air, tobacco smoke, and polluted air can also cause sinusitis. In this case, sinus infection does not spread to others.
When Is It No Longer Contagious?
If you have viral sinusitis, you may be contagious even before you notice the symptoms. In some cases, it stays contagious for about a week after you develop the symptoms. You can spread it by breathing, sneezing and coughing. You may even contaminate a surface and spread it to others when they touch the same surface.
Symptoms You Should Know about Sinus Infections
Are sinus infections contagious? They can be, depending on what causes an infection in the first place. However, you need to have some information about the symptoms of sinusitis to deal with it properly. There may be a slight difference in acute sinusitis symptoms and chronic sinusitis symptoms. For instance:
Acute Sinusitis Symptoms: In this case, you may have a runny nose along with facial pain. Loss of smell, stuffed-up nose, congestion and cough are other common symptoms. Some may also have fatigue, bad breath, fever and dental pain.
Chronic Sinusitis Symptoms: In this case, you may have symptoms such as pus in the nasal cavity, nasal blockage, fever and discolored postnasal drainage. You may also experience a feeling of fullness or congestion in your face. Some people with chronic sinusitis may also have tooth pain, bad breath and headaches.
When to See a Doctor
You should call your doctor if you have a stiff neck, a swollen forehead, or a fever above 102°F.
You should also seek medical attention if you have problems like feeling confused or having intense headaches.
Talk to your doctor immediately if your symptoms last more than 12 weeks.
Keep in mind that sinusitis can sometimes lead to other problems, so you should seek medical assistance if you have other infections such as cellulitis, meningitis, or osteomyelitis.
How to Deal with Sinus Infections
Identify the Underlying Cause
Before going any further, it is important to determine exactly what caused the infection in the first place to find the right treatment plan. For instance, if your sinusitis is due to allergies, you are not going to get better by using decongestants alone. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and may even other imaging tests like CT scans, X-rays, or MRIs to make a correct diagnosis.
Depending on the underlying cause, your doctor may prescribe different medicines. For instance:
Antibiotics: They may give you antibiotics if they believe you have a bacterial infection. You usually need to take these antibiotics for 10-14 days in case of acute sinusitis.
Painkillers: They may prescribe painkillers to help deal with headaches and facial pain. Taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen may also help. Ensure that you do not take OTC painkillers for more than 10 days.
Decongestants: They may prescribe decongestants to help deal with mucus in your sinuses. Avoid using these sprays for more than 3 days or they may aggravate your symptoms.
Allergy medicines: They may prescribe allergy medicines if your sinusitis is due to allergies. You may have to take antihistamines to improve your condition, but it is equally important to avoid your triggers.
Steroids: They may prescribe inhaled steroids to help alleviate pain and swelling in the sinus membranes.
Surgery: They may recommend surgery in case you have chronic sinusitis.
Try Home Remedies
Although the answer to "Are sinus infections contagious?" can be a yes, they can still be managed at home. You can also take some homecare measures to improve your condition and help recover quickly. For instance:
Moisten the air:
Install a humidifier in your room because dry air can aggravate your symptoms.
Take some steam vapors to reduce congestion and ease swollen nasal passages.
Make use of warm heat. Simply take a warm, wet towel and put it on your face for some time.
Make use of a nasal saline solution to keep your nasal passages moist.
Try nasal irrigation: You can use salt water to flush out your sinuses. For this, you can use neti pots or bulb syringes.
Increase your intake of fluids: It is important to drink plenty of water to help thin the mucus and keep your body hydrated.
Take plenty of rest: You should give your body time to fight the infection and recover fast.