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Are Sinus Infections Contagious

Sinus infections, also known as sinusitis, is a very common condition that is often caused by the common cold. But if you get a sinus infection, did you catch it from someone else? There’s sometimes a bit of confusion about whether or not sinus infections are contagious. In today’s blog, we’ll clear up this common question and do a deeper dive into the causes, symptoms and treatments for sinusitis.

Understanding Sinusitis

Sinusitis is a sinus infection that occurs when the sinuses become inflamed, swollen or infected. Your sinuses are cavities in your head that produce mucus to drain your nose and keep it clean. However, your sinuses can become blocked and mucus can build up, which can lead to sinusitis.

With that being said, sinusitis is not contagious. If you have a sinus infection, or you’re around someone with a sinus infection, it can’t pass from person to person. However, the causes of sinusitis can be contagious. Let’s take a look at those next.

What Are the Causes?

Sinusitis can be caused by a bacteria or virus, but various risk factors can increase your chances of developing sinusitis. These risk factors include:

  • Common cold or flu — Catching a cold is the most common way to get a viral sinus infection. The cold or flu can inflame and block the sinuses, which can lead to sinusitis.
  • Allergies — Allergies can also lead to sinusitis by swelling and congesting the nasal passages.
  • Exposure to pollutants or irritants — Exposure to tobacco smoke, pollution and other irritants can sometimes inflame the sinuses and lead to a viral infection.
  • Bacterial infections — It isn’t nearly as common, but sometimes bacterial infections can lead to sinusitis.

By understanding these risk factors, you can take preventive measures and hopefully avoid contracting sinusitis.

What Are the Symptoms?

Sinusitis can come with a variety of symptoms, which range in severity. The most common symptoms you can expect from sinusitis include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Facial pain, swelling, tenderness or pressure
  • Headaches
  • Thick yellow or green discharge from the nose
  • Ear pressure
  • Cough
  • Bad breath
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Teeth aches
  • Change in sense of smell

It's important to note that these symptoms can overlap with other respiratory conditions, so it's always best to consult with a health care professional for an accurate diagnosis. There are also cases where an infection can become serious, meaning you should seek medical attention immediately. We’ll talk about these symptoms next.

When To Seek Medical Attention

If you’re experiencing symptoms of a sinus infection, you likely won’t need to see a health care provider. Viral infections can’t be helped with antibiotics, and your conditions will likely subside in about a week. However, you should make sure to contact your health care provider if:

  • Symptoms worsen or persist after a week
  • You develop a high fever
  • You feel confused
  • You experience double vision or other vision changes
  • Your neck is feeling stiff

These symptoms could indicate a serious infection and should be addressed by a health care provider immediately. Remember, it's always better to be safe and get the right medical attention when needed.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

f you’re experiencing the symptoms of allergies or bronchitis, it’s a good idea to speak with your health care provider. Both conditions can be managed with the proper treatment plan. 

Allergies can typically be managed through OTC medication and avoidance but we recommend that you still discuss your symptoms with a health care provider. You should seek emergency medical attention if you have a severe allergic reaction. Severe allergic reactions can sometimes be fatal if left untreated.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Diagnosis and treatment options for sinus infections are typically based on the severity and duration of symptoms. 

A health care professional will likely perform a physical examination, review your medical history and may order additional tests, such as imaging studies or a nasal endoscopy, to determine the cause and extent of the sinus infection. 

Typically, self-care at home is enough to treat a sinus infection. Self-care measures may include:

  • Over-the-counter nasal decongestants
  • Saline nasal rinses to flush the sinuses
  • Applying warm compresses to the face for relief
  • OTC pain relievers and fever reducers like Ibuprofen or Tylenol
  • OTC allergy medication if you have allergies
  • Getting plenty of rest and fluids
  • Antibiotics if the infection is bacterial and doesn’t clear up on its own

It's important to follow the prescribed treatment plan and consult with a health care professional for appropriate care and guidance.

Natural Remedies To Help Relieve Your Sinus Infection

When it comes to treating a sinus infection, there are several natural remedies you can try at home.

As mentioned, saline nasal rinses are one of the best ways to relieve sinusitis symptoms. This involves flushing out your sinuses with a saline solution to alleviate congestion. Steam can also help to soothe your sinuses and promote drainage. The aforementioned warm compress can also help if you’re experiencing facial pain and pressure. Of course, don’t forget to get rest and hydrate while you’re healing so you can recover more quickly.

Natural remedies may not be a cure-all, but they can help alleviate symptoms in the interim and make your recovery period more manageable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have more questions about sinusitis? We have the answers for you! Check out our FAQ below for more information.

Do I need a prescription or medication?

The vast majority of sinusitis cases won’t require prescription medication for treatment. In most cases, you can manage your symptoms at home with self-care. However, we recommend speaking to a health care provider about your specific symptoms for a custom treatment plan.

Prescription medication may enter the equation if symptoms worsen or persist. Especially if your health care provider suspects the cause is a bacterial infection. While a sinus infection from a bacterial infection is rarer, it’s not unheard of.

How to get rid of sinus infection

If you’re dealing with a sinus infection, you likely want to find relief as soon as possible. Take steps to alleviate your symptoms and make sure the healing process goes smoothly. If your symptoms continue, we recommend speaking to a health care professional about your symptoms. 

First and foremost, stay hydrated and give your body the rest it needs to recover. Try saline nasal rinses to clear out congestion and provide relief. OTC medications like decongestants and pain relievers may also help if appropriate. However, make sure to talk to a health care professional if your symptoms become more serious or if they persist. Your health care provider can rule out any other conditions and determine the best path for treatment.

How long do sinus infections last?

Sinus infections, or sinusitis, can vary in duration depending on the individual and the underlying cause of the infection. Generally, sinus infections will clear up on their own in around a week. However, more severe infections can persist for longer and will need to be treated by a health care professional. It’s also possible you have chronic sinusitis if you continually experience sinus infections. While this is uncommon, it does occur in some individuals.

Book an appointment with a Circle Medical telehealth provider today!

If you’re feeling sick or experiencing symptoms of sinusitis, it doesn’t hurt to get an opinion from your primary care provider. If you’re looking for a convenient option for primary care, Circle Medical is here to help. Circle Medical is a full-stack primary care clinic that offers both in-person and online care. With our telehealth services, you can easily speak to a primary care provider from the comfort of your own home. We even offer same-day appointments! Book your appointment with a Circle Medical telehealth provider today to get started.

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