Is a sinus infection contagious? If you see someone coughing or with a stuffy nose, the first thing you think about is to keep away from him/ her. But most of the time you fail to escape that. As a result, you wake up the next morning with a headache or runny nose. Most of the time, it gives problems for a few days and then goes off.
But what if it stays longer? Or keeps coming back? It could be a sign of a sinus infection. Then lots of things start coming to mind. The most common in them is sinus infection contagious. You don’t want to spread the infection among the family, especially if there are children around.
Well, to get the answer to that question and all the other questions that are bothering you, you need to read the article carefully. Here you’ll not only clear all the doubts but also learn to maintain yourself properly if you or your loved ones have an infection.
What is sinus?
To know the sinus infection properly, you need to understand the sinuses. Sinuses are a series of cavities in the skull around the nose. These are lined with a soft tissue named mucosa. You have four types of sinuses, and they are-
- The largest Maxillary Sinuses are located in the chic bones under your eyes.
- The Frontal Sinuses are located in the lower center of the forehead.
- Ethmoid sinuses are in between the eyes.
- And the bones behind your nose hold the Sphenoid sinuses.
The actual functions of the sinuses are not clear yet as they are generally empty cavities. But experts found some indirect purposes they are involved with. As the sinuses drain into the nose cavity, having a mucous layer, they humidify the inner wall of the nose. It stops the pollutant particles from entering the lung. The hollow cavity of the sinuses also lightens your skull. Some experts also suggest that they help to improve the voice.
What is a sinus infection?
The sinuses use the mucous layer to prevent foreign particles from getting into the body. But because of some external or internal factors, the mucous can be trapped in the cavities. That results in inflammation. This swollen and inflamed situation of sinuses is called sinusitis or sinus infection.
Several factors can lead you to a sinus infection. Most commons are-
- Common cold
- The structural problem of sinuses
These factors can cause different types of symptoms. They act differently for the different duration in different people. Based on duration, the Sinus infection can be of 3 types. They are-
- Acute sinusitis: The most common type of sinusitis. A regular cold can turn into Acute Sinusitis. Most of the time it’s caused by a virus and lasts 7-10 days. But after the initial stage, secondary bacterial infection can also occur. In that case, it can last for 2-3 weeks.
- Subacute sinusitis: Seasonal allergies or pollutants cause this type of sinus infection. Similar to Acute Sinusitis here also bacteria can grow later. This infection usually lasts for one to 3 months.
- Chronic Sinusitis: Chronic sinusitis is an infection with the most prolonged duration. It can last more than three months. It can occur by different factors. Bacteria can settle down for a longer time if it is not treated properly. Besides, if you have any structural problem in the sinuses or nostrils, it can result in chronic sinusitis.
Besides these three main types, there is another one. If you face a problem when a sinus infection comes back again and again after getting well, it means you have Recurrent Sinusitis.
Is a sinus infection contagious?
Watching someone with the symptoms of sinus or having them makes you worried that is a sinus infection contagious or not. But there is no direct answer to that. Or to be precise, there are different answers for different situations. Sinus infection can occur by different factors, and those factors will decide if that sinus infection is contagious or not.
Similar to the common cold, the Rhinovirus is the most common factor to cause a sinus infection. If you or someone around you have a sinus infection caused by a virus, it is contagious. But you don’t pass on the infection itself. Instead, you pass on the virus only. This means if someone got the virus from you, he could get only a cold but not sinusitis.
Sometimes a typical cold can lead to the blockage of the sinuses. In those cases, the mucus-filled cavities can grow bacteria in them. Those bacteria then cause inflammation. It is known as bacterial sinusitis. If you have had a sinus infection for more than 10-14 days, then there is a fair possibility that you have bacterial sinusitis. In this case, you can not spread the infection. Although some experts claim as the infection involves bacteria, it is possible to spread the sinus infection. So it’s best to keep a distance.
Dry air, smoke, or tobacco triggers the possibility of getting a sinus infection. The polluted air is full of allergens. But if you have the wall separating the nostrils (septum) deviated, you can also have a chronic sinus infection. It can last even more than 12 weeks. But in these cases, you’ll not spread the infection at all. But without the duration, there is no other way to know the cause by just looking.
What are the symptoms of a sinus infection?
Primarily the sinus infection has similar symptoms to the common cold. As sometimes the cold turns into sinusitis. But you need to understand the differences between the two. Apart from the symptoms being more intense, you’ll have-
- Runny or stuffy nose longer than a week or more
- Inability to smell
- Pain with pressure between your eyes, on the forehead, on chic bones, or around the nose
- Swelling around the eyes
- Thick yellow or green discharge from the nose
- Postnasal drip
- Bad breath
- Sore throat
The intensity and duration of the symptoms can vary for different sinus infections. Acute sinus infection doesn’t last long. As it usually develops from a common cold, you’ll get rid of it in one week to ten days.
On the other hand, chronic sinusitis is bothersome. It usually takes 12 weeks or more to go. Besides, it tends to recur. At the same time, the bacterial sinus infection lasts a maximum of two weeks.
How to prevent a sinus infection?
It’s always better to prevent any problem than to get sinus infection treatment afterward. Similarly, you can also have some preventive measures to keep yourself from having a sinus infection.
- Drink enough water: Water helps every part of the body work properly, especially the liquid ones. It keeps the mucous thin. Thin mucous has less tendency to get stuck into the sinuses. That’s why you need to supply the water to the body as much as it needs. Keeping a water bottle always with you is a healthy habit.
- Take care of the nasal passages regularly: Foreign particles are continuously getting into the nose with air. The sinuses help the nose to stop them from getting further in. But those particles can lead to sinus infection That’s why you should clean the passage daily. Gently run water into the nasal passages. It will also clear out the excess mucous and keep the membrane moist. You can also use nasal saline spray.
- Sleep with a pillow: If you have a habit of sleeping without a pillow, you might catch a cold easier than others. During the night, the sinuses have a tendency to produce more mucus. If your head is down at that time, these can fill the sinus cavities. That’s why keep your head a little elevated while sleeping at night.
- Be gentle to the nose: Never blow your nose with too much pressure. It can damage the membranes. Try to blow one nostril at a time. If you blow them both together, the mucous can bounce back to the sinuses.
- Avoid antihistamines: If you have signs of sinus infection and allergic problems, doctors might prescribe antihistamines for you. But doctors usually apply them in a combination with another medication. That’s why it won’t be a problem. But if you take them on your own, it can cause you problems as Antihistamines tend to thicken the mucous.
- Be careful with decongestants: Decongestants are usually used to shrink the nasal passages’ membranes to keep them open. But using them frequently can make you dependent on them. It may result in even more swelling of the membranes. So, use them only if prescribed by the doctors unless you’ll increase their chances of getting a sinus infection.
How to treat a sinus infection?
Sinus infection can be different based on the duration. Usually, Acute sinusitis gets well without any requirements for treatment. Sometimes people don’t even realize they have acute sinusitis. In comparison, the subacute infection may take some more time to get rid of. But Chronic sinusitis lasts more than 12 weeks. That’s why it needs more care.
You can’t predict which type of infection you got. That’s why you can treat the infection with a basic procedure, called Saltwater irrigation. It’s the easiest, cheapest, and most effective treatment. As saltwater is one of the best agents to release blocked mucous, The doctors also recommend the treatment in mild infection cases. Follow the steps to do it without any mistakes-
- Mix ½ spoonful of non-iodized salt with 2 cups of boiled water. The water should be lukewarm. You can add ½ spoonful of baking soda to the saltwater.
- Then take a small bulb syringe. Fill it up with the solution. You can also use a dropper.
- Get to the sink with the syringe. Then lean over and enter the tip of the dropper or syringe into either of your nostrils. Squeeze it gently, so that the solution gets in the nostril.
- The water will fall back from that nostril or the other one. Do the same in the other nostril. If the saltwater feels horse, you can dilute it with more water.
- Wash the syringe or dropper and keep it for the next use.
You can apply this method on your own to ease your pain. Doctors may also ask you to do it at first. But if this doesn’t work, or the infection returns in a few days, the doctor will then get to further check-ups and medications. You can follow the basics here-
If your sinus symptoms stay for more than a week, you should go for a check-up. The doctor will diagnose the symptoms and check the nostrils with a flashlight. He will decide if the sinus infection is settled. If you have Sinusitis then primarily the doctor will suggest saltwater irrigation. But if that doesn’t help, he will decide the medication you need to have.
Usually, Acute Sinusitis is caused by a common cold. And the causing factor is a virus. In that case, antibiotics won’t work. But the doctor will check for secondary infection, which means whether the blockage of mucous grew bacteria in it. If you have a secondary infection, then you’ll be prescribed antibiotics, along with painkillers for headaches and facial pains. You may have to take some decongestants. But for that inhaling vapor is the best option.
If the infection stays for too long or it returns frequently, you may have chronic sinusitis. In that case, you need to consult an ENT (Ear Nose Throat) specialist. He will check the sinuses with an Endoscope to know the exact causes of the blockage. He may also prescribe a CT scan of the nose.
If bacteria or any allergen is causing your infection, he will suggest taking nasal steroids like Fluticasone or Beclomethasone to relieve the inflammation. He or she will also prescribe Guaifenesin as a mucous-thinning agent. With that, saltwater irrigation and cleaning the nasal passage cleaning processes will also be suggested.
But if the problem is anatomical, then only medication won’t be sufficient. In a deviated septum, a nasal polyp or any thickened tissue can develop because of chronic sinusitis. In these cases, the doctor will undergo mild surgery. Most of the time, this restores the normal function of the sinuses. But nasal polyps can grow again even after surgery.
When to seek medical care?
If you have symptoms of sinus infections, it is normal to feel the need to see a doctor. It’s also normal to doubt that Is sinus infection contagious? But most of the time, people have acute sinusitis that gets well without any treatments. You can apply some home remedies to relieve the pain and inflammation. Saltwater irrigation is the best remedy for that.
Besides in the initial stages, doctors prescribe you antibiotics. But acute sinusitis is usually caused by a virus. So the antibiotic won’t do any help. That’s why doctors also suggest keeping the infection in check for at least 7-10 days if you are not having too many complications.
If the condition doesn’t get better in that time or the infection comes back again and again (recurrent sinusitis), you need to see the doctor for sure after 10-14 days no matter if the sinus infection is contagious or not. On the other hand, you should consult the doctor even in the initial stage if you have the following problems-
- Frequent fever above 102°F
- Swollen forehead
- Feeling pressure on the forehead or around the eyes and nose
- Severe headache
- Stiffness in neck
In some cases, a Sinus infection can lead to other complications like meningitis, and bone or skin infections. In those cases, you need to see the doctor as soon as possible. You can also check here When to See a Doctor for a Sinus Infection?
It’s easy to get confused between a common cold and a sinus infection. But if someone has the symptoms, it’s always best to keep a little distance. You need to keep yourself away from others in case you have the symptoms of a sinus infection contagious. But keeping a distance is not always possible. Especially at home or if someone close to you gets the infection. In those cases, you need to keep regular hygiene in check and take preventive measures, especially for children. Wash your hands frequently. Keep your face covered if you have a cough or sneezing problem. If someone got the infection, it’s essential to prevent it from spreading to others.