Some people said that sinus infection contagious. Is that even true? Before you jump into conclusion, let’s get to know more about sinus infection.
Sinus infections, or often called as sinusitis, come with a wide range of symptoms. The most frequent ones to occur are pain around the face, congestion feeling, and nasal discharge.
Other symptoms are toothache, fever, and bad breath. It gets infected people hard to breathe as well since sinus infections also come with a lot of nasal discharge. But coughing is the one symptom that makes people think whether they are spreading germs to the others and therefore cause their sinus infection to be spread, too.
But first thing first, let’s understand about what sinuses are. The Sinus Doctor will answer it for us.
“They are air-filled cavities in the front of part of your skull behind the cheeks, forehead, and nose. While they help to lighten the weight of our heads, their main purpose is to filter air and produce a mucus that keeps the inside of the nasal cavity moist. That moisture protects our nasal passages from pollutants, dust, and micro organisms.” (Thesinusdoctor.com)
This aspect really holds the answer of our main question: is sinus infection contagious? Yes and no can be the answer, depending on what causes it. And often, you just don’t know about it. The followings are things that can cause sinus infection.
Most sinus infections are caused by a virus. If virus is what happened, then infected people can spread the virus but not the infection itself.
Another person may get sick but it’s indefinite to be sinusitis though mostly these viruses cause flu, colds, and other upper respiratory infections. Common viruses that cause such diseases are influenza viruses A and B, and rhinoviruses.
They are spread mainly via tiny droplets of air which come from sneezing, nose blowing, or coughing. The viruses may end up inside your system when you breathe, but it’s more often they enter when you touch your nose, mouth, or eyes after you came in contact with persons or surfaces which have been contaminated by the virus.
Sometimes, when mucus blocks and fills the sinuses, bacteria grow and cause infection. It is so because the blocked sinus unable to drain plus the environment is warm and moist.
Moreover, if you have sinus infections that last between 10 to 14 days, with symptoms of 102 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately equals to 38.8 degrees Celsius) fever or higher and pain around face area that lasts more than four days, it is more likely and tends to be sinusitis caused by bacteria. When that happens, the infection is not contagious.
The most common bacteria related to sinus infections are including:
- Haemophilus influenzae
- Moraxella catarrhalis
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Streptococcus pneumonia
But, sinusitis caused by bacteria is less common. The percentage of it happens is only 2%.
- Other Causes
Classified by duration, sinus infections types are as following.
- The infection lasts for about 4 weeks or less,
- The infection lasts for about 4-12 weeks,
- The infection lasts for 12 weeks at the very least, and
- The infection occurs several times a year.
A chronic sinusitis is often caused by:
- Nasal polyps (tissue growths in your nose). They are non-cancerous, painless, and usually not tagging any harmful symptoms along.
Nasal polyps may be related to asthma and certain allergies, but larger nasal polyps can lead bacteria and mucus to build up because they block the nasal passage and prevent the sinuses to drain. The entire process lead to sinus infection.
- Nasal tumors
- Allergies, or
- Deviated septum. It may make you more affected to sinusitis. The septum consists of the bone that divides the nostrils and wall of cartilage. With deviated septum, the cartilage wall leans to one side or off center. This condition causes a difficulty to breathe and snoring. Deviated septum causes sleep apnea to some people.
And sometimes, sinusitis can be triggered by:
- polluted air,
- Dry air, and
- Mold and fungi.
It has been mentioned briefly in the first paragraph what the symptoms of sinus infections are. The most common symptoms mainly resemble a cold as sinusitis often feel like a bad cold despite sinus infection contagious or not. The symptoms are as follow.
- Pain or pressure in the sinus cavities
- Bad breath
- Cloudy nasal discharge or post-nasal drip
- Stuffiness of the nose or congested feeling, make it difficult to speak or breathe normally
- Sore or irritated throat
- Puffiness around the eyes
- Inability to smell
- General malaise
Meanwhile, if your sinus infection is caused by bacteria, there are some additional symptoms. If you’re having these symptoms, go visit a doctor and look for medical attention immediately. The symptoms are including:
- Thick nasal discharge like pus
- Symptoms last longer than a week
- Facial pain or pressure, between the eyes, on the forehead, at the upper jaw, or on the nose’s sides.
Sinusitis or Allergies?
In general, people can’t differentiate whether they’re having sinus infection or allergy since the symptoms are particularly similar. However, there is a significant difference to tell them apart. By running a test: the amount of certain white blood cells in a nasal smear test.
“The test is very simple. You blow your nose on a piece of plastic wrap. Next step, a lab technician will examines the nasal discharge under a microscope. If there are many eosinophils, you may have allergies. Although finding few eosinophils (negative result), does not mean that allergies are not causing your symptoms.” (Uofmhealth.org)
- Home Remedies and Treatments
You’ll try to stop the symptoms at all cost once you get infected because you may be ‘cured’ when the symptoms are gone. Here is what you can consider as home remedies for both sinus infections contagious and non-contagious.
- OTC (over the counter) drugs, such as decongestant nasal sprays, saline sprays, salt-water sprays, saline nasal irrigation, and fever reducers. They’re good for reducing swelling and inflammation as well as lessening the amount of mucus produced.
- Steam vaporizes or humidifier
- Warm compresses
- Pain relievers like acetaminophen in the brand name of Tylenol, for example. It reduces tenderness and pain caused by swollen nasal passages. It may also be helpful in reducing fever.
- Mucus thinners
- Essential oils for people who interested in natural or herbal treatments. Lavender oil, eucalyptus oil, and lemon oil are some examples of essential oils that may help with sinus pressure.
- Take a good rest
- Do blow your nose gently, one nostril at a time. If you do it too strongly, it can cause nose bleeds and make the symptoms of sinus infection to be worse.
If OTC and home remedies don’t work, you’ll probably be recommended other treatments by your doctor. They are including:
- They’re only work for bacterial sinus infections. Antibiotics can’t help sinusitis caused by virus or fungi. Amoxicillin is common to be the first option for treatment, but your doctor probably also choose amoxicillin-clavulanate which can neutralize most of the bacteria responsible for sinusitis in an effective way.
- Nasal corticosteroids and sprays
- Nasal antihistamine sprays
- Oral or injected corticosteroids. Steroids injected directly to nasal passages can help in reducing inflammation. This treatment is extremely helpful in cases of chronic or recurrent sinus infections.
- Medications prescribed to reduce asthma symptoms because some people may have sinusitis because of other diseases, asthma is one of them.
- Surgery or other medical procedures to open up obstructed or narrowed sinus or nasal passages to relieve sinusitis. Examples of surgery-needed conditions are nasal polyps or deviated septum.
Since surgery is a major decision to make in order to ‘cure’ your sinus infection, here are some pros and cons about it as considerations.
- A sinus surgery can help you to improve your quality of life
- It improves the patient’s health state in 80% of the cases
- An alternative if treatment with medicine do not affect the patients
- There aren’t studies about the surgeries’ long time effect for inflamed sinuses available yet
- It could damage the significant structures for the nasal passage moistening
- There are many complaints of dry mucus membranes after surgery
- Around 1% of cases, surgery can damage the neighboring structures and lead to an eye infection, meningitis, or even blindness, for instances
- Frontal sinuses can also in danger with surgeries
- In around 10% of the cases, some temporary surgery side effects are a weakening of smelling ability and the strike of bleeding
You may not know what causes you to get either sinus infection contagious or non-contagious. So, it’s best for you to avoid from getting it and avoid also from spreading the cause. Here is what you can do as preventions.
To keep from getting the contagious infection, you can:
- Wash your hands rather frequently with water and soap or disinfecting your hands with sanitizer.
- Try not to touch your face, especially nose, mouth, and eyes.
- Try to avoid people with cold and flu like symptoms.
- Get vaccination. The flu shot and pneumococcal vaccine can help in preventing sinusitis caused by virus and bacteria.
- Practice a healthy lifestyle, such as eat well, exercise regularly, and get well rest to keep your immune system strong and be able to repel viruses.
To not spread the virus if you get infected, you can:
- Avoid direct contact, such as kissing, with other people who are likely easier to get infected, like the elderly, infants, and those that have weak immune system.
- Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, be it in public places or not, or around people or not.
- Wash your hands also to avoid making anyone sick.
To keep from getting the non-contagious infection, you can:
- Keep your house dry, well aired, and clean to reduce the possibility of mold growth.
- Consider to have smoke-free house. Being both active and passive smokers raises the risk of developing sinusitis. Quit smoking if you’re an active smoker.
- Get allergies tested to avoid the triggers and reduce the risk of sinus infection.
- Drink lots of water if you catch a cold to keep yourself hydrated.
- Eat only healthy food which is rich in minerals and vitamins to keep up your immune system and gives energy to your body to get through the day.
- Flush the nasal passages with a nasal irrigation device. When you get infected, it helps in reducing swelling and inflammation. But it’s good as prevention act as well. Besides reduce swelling and inflammation, it may help to improve the mucus transport and remove any debris or allergens which could cause an infection.
- Consider to use decongestants before you go diving, air travelling, or swimming. Because sudden changes in air pressure occurs in these three activities and can irritate the sinuses and trigger sinusitis.
- Serious Infections
If your sinusitis gets serious, you should contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible. The serious conditions including:
- Persistent fever above 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.8 degrees Celsius)
- Severe headaches (intense and don’t go away)
- Swellings in the forehead and/or eyes
- Shortness of breath
- A stiff neck
- Problems seeing or double vision
- Redness around the eyes
- Have a history of chronic or recurrent sinusitis
- Not improving sinus infection symptoms or they even get worse and last more than 12 weeks
In several cases, whether you have sinus infection contagious or non-contagious, it can lead to other complications. Contact your doctor or other healthcare provider whenever you have:
- Other infections, like bone infection (osteomyelitis) or skin infection (cellulitis)
- Temporary or permanent smell loss
Both diseases, sinus infection contagious and non-contagious, are bothersome. With so many symptoms, it is unlikely for you to get proper life for a while when you have an infection. You even have to consider staying at home for most of the time. Therefore, let’s try our best to keep up our immune system to avoid suffering from such diseases.