Dealing with a stuffy nose? Facial pressure?
Wondering whether your sinus infection is contagious?
Can you spread the flu to your family members, coworkers or loved ones?
The answer to this depends on the type of infection you have.
No one wants to experience the pain and annoyance that comes with a sinus infection.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, 31 million Americans suffer from sinus infections, also known as sinusitis, each year.
Given these statistics, it makes sense for you to be concerned about spreading your sinus infection, not to mention how similar it is to other respiratory illnesses like the COVID-19.
So, are sinus infections contagious?
Continue reading to learn more about sinus infections, their symptoms and methods for treating them.
What is a sinus infection?
When your air-filled facial pockets known as the sinuses fill up with fluid, inflaming the lining of your sinuses and blocking their ability to drain, a sinus infection, or sinusitis.
The mucus can become stuck and allow germs to thrive, which can cause an infection.
Some elements that could raise the risk of a sinus infection are:
- Structure of your sinuses
- A recent illness
What are the types of sinus infections?
According to how long sinus infections last, they can be divided into many categories which includes:
- Acute infections that persist for four weeks or less
- Subacute infections last between 4 and 12 weeks
- Chronic infections are those that persist for more than a month
- Recurrent infections are referred to as multiple annual illnesses
Each form of sinus infection can be brought on by a number of different things, such as bacteria, viruses, or fungus.
Because of obstructions in the nasal passages or deformities in the sinus cavities, some forms of sinusitis merely cause swelling and inflammation.
Allergies and long-term exposure to pollution also cause sinus infections.
Why do sinus infections happen?
Your cheekbones, forehead, and the space between your eyes all contain hollow chambers called sinuses.
The linings of these passageways could expand resulting in a build-up of mucus.
Many people who have the rhinovirus, which causes colds, also get sinus infections.
Common cold symptoms like congestion and runny nose can inflame the sinuses and impair their ability to drain effectively.
What are the symptoms of sinus infections?
The following are the most typical signs of a sinus infection:
- Post nasal drip
- Pain in the mouth and cheeks
- Pressure around the eyes
- Loss of smell
- Bad breath
- Nasal congestion
- Pain in one or both of the ears
Bacterial sinus infections include a few extra signs and symptoms which consists of:
- Thick or pus-like nasal discharge
- Facial ache
- Symptoms that last longer than a week
What are the contagious causes of sinus infections?
Viral sinus infections
If a virus is the underlying cause of a sinus infection then it is contagious.
The nasal passages generate more mucus than normal when suffering from the common cold.
Sometimes, mucus becomes caught in the cavities of the sinuses, causing them to enlarge, which is ideal for the growth of a sinus infection.
You can spread the virus that caused a viral sinus infection if you have one.
However, even if the virus makes other people sick with a cold, it doesn’t always follow that they’ll also get a sinus infection.
Since each person is unique, although the virus has caused you to develop a sinus infection, another person could simply experience moderate symptoms.
Most people are infectious for 10 to 14 days on average.
What are the non-contagious causes of sinus infections?
The body releases histamines in response to seasonal allergies, which naturally enlarge your nasal passages.
Nasal blockages can result from swelling that can obstruct airflow as the interior of your nose gets irritated.
Because of this, fluid builds up in the sinuses and leads to an infection.
The airflow via the nasal passages could be obstructed by these tiny, benign growths.
A sinus infection will arise if these growths disrupt normal airflow for an extended length of time or create swelling inside your nose.
Tumors inside your nose
Nasal tumors, like nasal polyps, can obstruct the normal flow of air via the nasal passages.
This could result in swelling and fluid build-up, which results in a sinus infection.
A deviated septum occurs when the wall between the nostrils isn’t in the middle of the nose.
One of your nasal airways is narrower than the other when this disease is present, which interferes with your airflow.
Recurring sinus infections result from a nasal channel that is too small to effectively dry up or remove microorganisms.
Bacterial sinus infections
Sinus infections caused by bacteria are not contagious.
If you are in close proximity to another with sinus infection then bacteria can be passed.
But for an infection to form, the environment in your nasal passages must be ideal.
Are sinus infections contagious?
You cannot transmit a viral sinus infection to others, but you can share the virus if you have one.
Someone who contracts the virus from you is thus more likely to get a sinus infection as well.
You could be infectious for as long as two weeks.
Bacteria can also result in sinus infections.
Not to mention, collected mucus is a great environment for bacteria to flourish.
Infections can be brought on by allergies, nasal polyps, and other conditions that structurally obstruct the sinus cavity because they make it difficult for mucus to fully drain.
All of these reasons are not communicable.
What changes happen in your body during a sinus infection?
Inflammation and swelling can occur when viruses or bacteria colonize the sinuses.
Because of all the fluid accumulation within your face, this puts pressure on your head which gives you headaches and pain around your eyes.
It becomes difficult to breath and speak out loud when your sinuses produce excessive amounts of mucus.
The mucus membranes that line your throat and mouth may swell, making them feel congested and sore when you swallow food or saliva down into them for digestion purposes.
This can cause problems when eating too much at once, which can cause vomiting from overeating or overdosing on a sense of taste that is unable to handle the foreign ingested content.
Who is at risk for sinus infections?
Sinus infections affect anybody, although some people are more susceptible than others.
The most vulnerable populations to get a sinus infection are:
- Older adults
- Those with compromised immune systems
- People who smoke
- Those who have allergies
How long can your untreated sinus infection last?
The duration of a sinus infection can range from 10 days to 3 months, depending on the kind you have.
If you can, it’s important to visit a doctor for treatment.
While chronic sinusitis lasts longer than 12 weeks, most acute sinus infections last approximately 10 days.
Mild symptoms of viral sinus infections may persist longer than that, but they usually go away within seven to ten days.
On the other hand, bacterial sinusitis might worsen after the first seven days and last for up to ten days before improving.
Do sinus infections spread easily?
It’s possible to infect someone else with the virus that caused your sinus infection.
They could get a cold as a result of this, which can turn into a sinus infection.
It’s not always a virus that causes sinus infections.
Infections can occasionally also be caused by bacteria and fungus.
It is not contagious if bacteria is the cause of your sinus infection.
The same way you catch a cold or the flu, you can contract it by inhaling it or spreading it from your hands to your mouth after touching something.
When a sick person sneezes or coughs, viruses spread through the air.
Plus, they can spread when a healthy person shakes hands with a sick person or touches an infected surface.
Make sure to:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water to prevent the spread of viruses
- Avoid touching your lips, nose, or eyes
- Avoid those who appear to be suffering with the flu or a cold
To prevent spreading illness to others:
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze if you have sinusitis
- You should also wash your hands regularly
How to prevent yourself from infecting your sinuses?
Even though some sinus infections such those brought on by structural problems, for instance, are difficult to prevent, you can still take actions to lessen the likelihood of infection.
Prevention techniques include:
- Hydrate yourself regularly: Your mucus is loosened by water, which makes it easier for it to drain.
- Keep your hands clean: By doing this, your risk of contracting a viral illness is reduced.
- Use a humidifier and air purifier: This is a fantastic technique to avoid sinusitis as moisture is added to the air around you to ease your breathing rate.
- Keep allergies away: The most important step in treating allergy-induced sinusitis is working with a doctor to develop an allergy treatment plan.
- Avoid coming in close contact with anyone who is ill: When someone is ill, it’s advisable to keep a safe distance from them until they are no longer contagious.
- Get the immunizations: The first line of protection against viruses and bacteria is vaccination, which includes the pneumococcal vaccine and the flu vaccine.
How to treat your sinus infection?
There are several at-home sinus infection treatments available which starts with:
- Saline nasal irrigation and saline nasal sprays
- Over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants
- OTC fever reducers
- OTC painkillers
- Mucus thinners
- Plain old rest!
If over-the-counter and at-home cures don’t help, your doctor may suggest one of the following:
- Nasal sprays with antihistamines
- Inhaled or oral corticosteroids
- Sprays and nasal corticosteroids
- Sinus surgery
Only bacterial sinus infections are treated with antibiotics and they don’t work with viral illnesses.
When should you visit your doctor?
If you experience any of the following:
- Fever higher than 102°F (38.8°C)
- Redness and swelling around the eyes
- Issues with eyesight or double vision
- A stiff neck
- Swollen forehead
- Persistent pain and headaches
- Sinus symptoms that last for longer than a year
If you experience several sinus infections in a 12-month period or if your OTC treatments don’t help your symptoms.
Sinus infections sometimes cause further problems.
If any of the following apply to you, contact your doctor immediately:
- Other infections, such as skin infection or osteomyelitis (a bone infection)
- Permanent or transient loss of smell
It’s possible for you to spread the virus that’s causing your sinus infection to other people.
They could have a cold, even though they might not get a sinus infection.
Take proper steps if you have a sinus infection to stop the virus from spreading such as covering yourself when you sneeze or cough or when someone else does it and wash your hands regularly.
Rest, home remedies and over-the-counter medications frequently treat sinus infections, but any serious or persistent problem should be evaluated by a doctor.