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Are Sinus Infections Contagious?


  • What is a sinus infection?

Sinus infections, also known as sinusitis, are usually caused by viral and bacterial infections. In most cases, sinus infections are caused by viruses like rhinoviruses and coronaviruses.

  • Are sinus infections contagious?

Sinus infections which are caused by viruses are contagious. In contrast to viral infections, sinus infections caused by bacteria are usually less contagious.

  • What causes sinus infections to become contagious?

In a person with a sinus infection, germs often hide and multiply in the fluid and mucus that are trapped in the sinuses. When the sick person coughs or sneezes, the fluid containing germs will be projected to the person’s surroundings as tiny droplets. These tiny droplets can travel through the air for some distance. When another person inhales these fluid droplets, the germs inside the droplets will latch on to the nasopharyngeal mucosa of that person and start to breed.

In most cases, the people who inhale these contaminated fluid droplets will not develop sinus infections. Usually, they will just develop common colds. If a common cold is not treated or the person is immunocompromised, the common cold may lead to a sinus infection.

The fluid droplets containing pathogenic germs can also be spread by touching another person or object. A person who has a sinus infection can spread germs onto their hands if they cough or sneeze directly onto their hands. If they don’t wash and clean their hands properly, they can spread these germs by touching other people and objects. Objects that are touched very frequently like doorknobs and taps can be contaminated by germs.

  • For how long is a sinus infection contagious?

If the sinus infection is caused by viral infections, the sick person may have been contagious for days before he or she even develop symptoms of a sinus infection. Once a sinus infection develops, the sick person will remain contagious for a few more days until he or she recovers completely. Most acute viral sinus infections last for about 7 to 10 days.

  • How do I know if I have got a sinus infection?

Sinus infections and common colds often cause similar symptoms. The typical symptoms of a sinus infection are:

o   Nasal discharge

o   Headache

o   Mild fever

o   Puffiness around the eyes

o   Pressure in the sinuses (forehead, cheeks, between the eyes)

o   Cough

o   Sore throat

o   Earache

o   Fatigue and tiredness

  • What should I do when I have a sinus infection?

Sinus infections that are caused by viruses usually self-limiting and will go away on its own after 7 to 10 days. Sinus infections which do not get better after 14 days or sinus infections that cause more severe symptoms may be caused by bacterial infections. In this case, a medical opinion should be sought after as soon as possible.

  • What can I do to prevent sinus infections?

Sinus infections can be contagious so measures should be taken to prevent the spread of pathogens to other people. Sinus infections and common colds are caused by similar pathogens so the same methods can be used to halt the spread of pathogenic germs.

Hand hygiene is one of the most important and effective measures to decrease the likelihood of germ transmission. One should wash their hands after touching or blowing their noses as well as prior to and after touching contaminated objects and sick people. Elderly and immunocompromised people, as well as people who frequently get sinus infections, should get annual flu vaccinations to help prevent the occurrence of sinus infections.

For more information, read sinusitis answers by DoctorOnCall on their website.

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