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Are Sinus Infections Contagious?

Updated: May 31

Are Sinus Infections Contagious?

Sinus infections are something that a lot of people have to deal with at some point. While you may know what a sinus infection is, there's actually a lot more to it than you might think. Sinus infections have to do with your sinuses, which are spaces in your face that make mucus. There are different kinds of sinus infections, and they can be hard to get rid of. And you may be wondering if they're contagious. In this article, we'll dive into sinus infections and help you understand what they are, what they do, and what you can do to get rid of them.

What is Sinusitis?

Sinusitis, or sinus infection, is when the sinuses in your face get inflamed. Your sinuses are spaces in your face that make mucus. When they get inflamed, it can cause all sorts of problems, like pain and congestion.

What are Sinuses?

Sinuses are small spaces in your face that make mucus. These spaces are in your cheekbones, forehead, and bridge of your nose. They make mucus, which helps to trap dust, bacteria, and other things that you breathe in. The mucus then flushes these things out through the pathways in the sinuses.

Types of Sinusitis

Acute Sinusitis

Acute sinusitis is when your sinuses are inflamed for a short period of time, usually for less than four weeks. It's often caused by a bacterial or viral infection and can cause symptoms like facial pain, stuffy nose, and thick nasal discharge.

Subacute Sinusitis

Subacute sinusitis is when your sinuses are inflamed for longer than acute sinusitis, usually for between four and twelve weeks. The symptoms are similar to those of acute sinusitis, but they might not be as bad and they might last for longer.

Chronic Sinusitis

Chronic sinusitis is when your sinuses are inflamed for more than twelve weeks. This kind of sinusitis can last for months or even years. It can cause symptoms like facial pressure, stuffy nose, and difficulty breathing through the nose.

Recurrent Sinusitis

Recurrent sinusitis is when you have multiple episodes of acute sinusitis or chronic sinusitis within a year. This means that you might have several sinus infections in a year. People with recurrent sinusitis might need to get treated several times to make the symptoms go away and to prevent more episodes.

10 Common Signs and Symptoms of Sinusitis

Signs and Symptoms of Sinusitis

There are several signs and symptoms that can indicate you have sinusitis. These include:

1. Nasal congestion

One of the most common symptoms of sinusitis is nasal congestion, which makes it hard to breathe through your nose. Your nasal passages can get blocked or swollen, which makes your nose feel stuffy and heavy.

2. Facial pain or pressure

Sinusitis often causes pain and pressure in the face. The sinuses are located around the eyes, cheeks, and forehead. When they get inflamed and produce more mucus, it can make these areas feel uncomfortable and pressured.

3. Headache

Sinus headaches often come with sinusitis. These headaches are usually felt around the forehead, eyes, and cheeks. They can get worse when you bend forward or make sudden movements.

4. Loss of smell

Sinusitis can also cause you to lose your sense of smell. This means that you might not be able to smell things as well as you normally can. This can make you feel sick and may reduce your appetite.

5. Coughing

A persistent cough can also be a symptom of sinusitis. This is usually because the mucus from your sinuses is irritating your respiratory passages.

6. Fatigue

Another symptom of sinusitis is fatigue, or feeling unusually tired. This is because your body is working hard to fight the infection, which can make you feel weak and tired.

7. Thick Nasal Discharge

Another common sign of sinusitis is thick, yellow, or green nasal discharge. This mucus is a sign that your body is fighting off an infection. It's important to be aware of this mucus so you can keep an eye on your symptoms.

8. Sore Throat

A sore throat can also be a symptom of sinusitis. This is because of postnasal drip, which is when mucus from your sinuses drips down your throat. This can irritate your throat and make it hurt.

9. Fever

A fever can be a symptom of sinusitis if it's caused by bacteria. This is because your body is trying to fight off the infection, and one of the ways it does that is by raising your body temperature.

10. Difficulty Concentrating

Sinusitis can also make it hard to concentrate. This is because the symptoms, like a headache and feeling tired, make it hard to focus on anything.

What Causes Sinus Infections?

Sinus infections, also known as sinusitis, can be caused by a bunch of different things. Knowing what causes sinus infections can help you prevent them and manage them better. Here's a list of some of the common causes of sinus infections:

Viral Infections

Most sinus infections are caused by viruses. These viruses, like the common cold or the flu, can cause inflammation of your sinus tissues. This is called sinusitis.

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial sinus infections aren't as common as viral ones, but they can still happen. These infections are caused by bacteria, like Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae. They can happen after you've had a viral infection in your upper respiratory system.

Fungal Infections

Fungi can also cause sinus infections, but they are less common than viral and bacterial infections. This type of sinus infection is called fungal sinusitis and is more likely to happen to people with weak immune systems. Some fungi, like Aspergillus, can cause fungal sinus infections.


Allergies can also cause sinus infections. If you're allergic to things like pollen, dust mites, or pet dander, your sinuses can get inflamed. This increases the risk of getting sinusitis.

Risk Factors for Sinusitis

There are several risk factors that can make you more likely to get sinusitis. Knowing what these risk factors are can help you understand why you might be more likely to get sinusitis, and how you can prevent it. Here's a list of some of the common risk factors for sinusitis:

1. Respiratory Conditions

If you have pre-existing respiratory conditions like asthma or allergic rhinitis, you're more likely to get sinusitis. This is because these conditions cause inflammation in your lungs and nose, which can spread to your sinuses and make them more susceptible to infection.

2. Nasal Abnormalities

Another risk factor for sinusitis is having structural issues with your nasal passages. If you have a deviated septum or nasal polyps, it can make it harder for your sinuses to drain properly. This can create an environment that's conducive to sinus infections.

3. Immune System Deficiencies

If you have a weak immune system, either because of a medical condition like HIV/AIDS or because of immunosuppressive medications, you're more likely to get sinusitis. This is because your immune system isn't as strong as it should be, so it's harder for your body to fight off infections.

4. Allergies

If you have allergies, you're more likely to get sinusitis. This is especially true if you're constantly exposed to allergens, like pollen, dust mites, or pet dander. Allergies can make your nose and sinuses swollen and inflamed.

5. Age

Sinusitis can affect people of any age, but young children and older adults are more likely to get it. This is because young children's immune systems aren't fully developed yet, and older adults may have age-related changes in their respiratory tissues.

Are Sinus Infections Contagious?

Sinus infections, or sinusitis, are not usually contagious. However, the causes of sinusitis, like the common cold or flu, can be contagious. The infection is caused by inflammation of the sinuses, which is often triggered by a virus or bacteria. These viruses or bacteria may have entered your body through your nose or mouth. While these infections can be contagious, the resulting sinus infection is not contagious in itself.

What Happens if Sinus Infection is Left Untreated?

If you don't treat a sinus infection, it can cause more problems than just feeling unwell at first. Knowing what could happen is important so you can get help from a doctor in time. Here's a look at what might happen if you leave a sinus infection untreated:

1. Chronic Inflammation

If you don't treat your sinus infection, it can lead to persistent inflammation of the sinus tissues. This can lead to chronic sinusitis, which lasts more than 12 weeks and causes recurring symptoms. This can lead to a decrease in the quality of life.

2. Spread of Infection

If you don't treat your sinus infection, it can also spread to other structures in your head. This can lead to more serious complications, such as eye infections, ear infections, or infections of the bones of your skull. These are serious health issues that can affect your overall health.

3. Sinus Abscess

If you don't treat your sinus infection, it can also lead to a sinus abscess. A sinus abscess is a collection of pus in your sinus cavities. This is a serious condition that can lead to severe complications if left untreated. If you suspect you have a sinus abscess, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

4. Meningitis

In rare cases, an untreated sinus infection can lead to meningitis, which is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that surround your brain and spinal cord. If you suspect you have meningitis, you should seek medical attention immediately.

5. Vision Problems

When sinus infections aren't treated, they can mess with your eyes because your sinuses are close by. This might cause problems like swelling, redness, and in really bad cases, it could even mess with your vision.

How is a Sinus Infection Diagnosed?

To figure out if you have a sinus infection, doctors usually ask about your medical history, check you over, and might do some extra tests if needed. Here's how they usually do it:

1. Medical History

Your doctor will talk to you about how you've been feeling, asking about your symptoms, like how long you've had them and if they're improving or not. They'll also ask if you've had sinus infections before or any other similar problems.

2. Physical Examination

Your doctor will likely conduct a physical exam. They may look at your nasal passages, sinuses, and throat for any signs of inflammation, swelling, or discharge. This can help them figure out if you have a sinus infection.

3. Symptom Assessment

Your doctor will assess your symptoms to see if they fit the profile of a sinus infection. Common symptoms of sinus infection include facial pain or pressure, a stuffy nose, discolored nasal discharge, cough, fatigue, and sometimes fever.

4. Nasal Endoscopy

In some cases, your doctor may perform a nasal endoscopy. This is when a thin, flexible tube with a camera is inserted into your nasal passages to get a closer look at your sinuses and check for any signs of infection or other abnormalities.

5. Imaging Tests

If your doctor suspects that there might be complications, or if they want to get a more detailed view of your sinuses, they may order imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs. These tests can help your doctor see what's going on in your sinuses and decide on the best treatment.

6. Nasal Culture or Sinus Aspiration

Sometimes, your doctor may collect a sample of your nasal or sinus discharge for testing. This can help them figure out what's causing your sinus infection, like bacteria or fungi. Knowing the cause of your sinus infection can help your doctor choose the best treatment for you.

How is Sinusitis Treated?

Sinus infections can be treated in different ways depending on the cause and how bad they are. The goal is to ease symptoms, reduce swelling, and fight the infection. Here’s a look at how sinusitis is usually treated:

1. Acute Sinusitis (Viral)

  • Rest and Hydration: For acute sinusitis, one of the most important things you can do is to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Make sure you're drinking lots of water and getting enough sleep. This can help reduce the symptoms of sinusitis.

  • Over-the-counter Medications: For acute sinusitis, you can use over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These medicines can lower your fever and ease the pain from sinusitis.

  • Nasal Decongestants: Short-term use of decongestant sprays or oral decongestants can help clear a stuffy nose. Note that nasal sprays should not be used for more than three days to avoid rebound congestion.

  • Saline Nasal Irrigation: Another treatment for acute sinusitis is saline nasal irrigation. This involves using a saline solution to rinse out your nasal passages. This can help clear out the mucus and reduce the symptoms of sinusitis.

2. Acute Bacterial Sinusitis

  • Antibiotics: If your doctor finds out your sinus infection is caused by bacteria, they might give you antibiotics. Common ones include amoxicillin, doxycycline, or a mix of amoxicillin and clavulanate.

  • Adjunct Treatments: In addition to the antibiotics, you may also use some other treatments to manage your symptoms. These treatments may include saline nasal irrigation, nasal corticosteroids, or over-the-counter pain relievers. These treatments can help relieve your symptoms while the antibiotics are working to clear the infection.

3. Chronic Sinusitis

  • Nasal Corticosteroids: Nasal corticosteroids are medications that help reduce the inflammation in your nasal passages. Some examples of nasal corticosteroids include fluticasone, budesonide, or mometasone. Your doctor may recommend that you use one of these medications to help reduce the inflammation and improve your symptoms.

  • Saline Nasal Irrigation: Saline nasal irrigation, or nasal rinsing, can help to clear your sinuses. This involves using a saline solution to flush out mucus, bacteria, and allergens from your nose. Regularly using saline nasal irrigation can help to keep your sinuses clear, which can help reduce your symptoms.

  • Antibiotics: If your doctor thinks that your sinus infection is caused by bacteria, they may prescribe you antibiotics. In this case, you may need to take antibiotics for a longer period of time, usually a few weeks, to make sure the infection is completely gone.

  • Oral or Injectable Corticosteroids: If the inflammation in your sinuses is very severe, your doctor may recommend that you take oral corticosteroids (like prednisone) or injectable corticosteroids to reduce the swelling. Corticosteroids are strong medications that can lessen swelling and make you feel better.

  • Allergy Treatment: If allergies are contributing to your sinusitis, your doctor may recommend treatments that can help reduce your symptoms. These treatments can include antihistamines (which can help reduce the symptoms of allergies), or allergy shots (also known as immunotherapy), which can help reduce your sensitivity to allergens.

  • Surgery: If you have chronic sinusitis that doesn't improve with other treatments, your doctor may suggest a type of surgery called functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS). During this surgery, a doctor uses a tiny camera and specialized tools to remove blockages in your sinuses and help them drain better. This surgery can help reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

4. Fungal Sinusitis

  • Antifungal Medication: If your sinusitis is caused by a fungal infection, you might have to take antifungal medicine. These medicines are made to kill the fungus causing the infection. Your doctor will pick the right one based on the type of fungus you have.

  • Surgery: In some cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove fungal growths or to clear blocked sinuses. This can make you feel better and improve your health. The type of surgery you need will depend on what’s causing your sinusitis and how bad it is.

How to Prevent the Spread of Sinusitis

Preventing the spread of sinusitis is important to protect others and to keep yourself healthy. Whether it's caused by a virus or bacteria, there are ways to prevent it from spreading. Here's a guide on how to prevent the spread of sinusitis:

1. Practice good hand hygiene

Good hand hygiene is very important in preventing the spread of sinusitis. Wash your hands with soap and water often, especially after you sneeze, cough, or blow your nose. If you don't have access to soap and water, you can use hand sanitizer.

2. Cover your nose and mouth

When you sneeze or cough, use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth. Throw the tissue away after you use it. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow instead of your hands. This can help prevent you from spreading germs to others.

3. Avoid close contact with sick individuals

If you know someone around you has sinusitis or symptoms of a respiratory infection, try to stay away from them as much as you can. This can help reduce the risk of you getting sick from them.

4. Stay home when sick

If you have symptoms of sinusitis, such as a stuffy or runny nose, pain in your face, or a headache, it's important to stay home from work, school, or other places where you might be around other people. This can help prevent you from spreading the illness to others.

5. Practice respiratory etiquette

Encourage others to be mindful of their respiratory etiquette, such as covering their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze, to help stop the spread of respiratory infections like sinusitis. You can also set a good example by following these guidelines yourself.

6. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces

Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are often touched, like doorknobs, light switches, and countertops, to help reduce the spread of germs. You can use cleaning products or disinfectants to do this.

7. Use a humidifier

Using a humidifier in your home can help with sinus congestion by keeping the air moist. This can help keep your nasal passages moist and less likely to become infected.

8. Avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke

Smoking and secondhand smoke can irritate your nose and make sinusitis symptoms worse. Avoid smoking and being around people who are smoking to prevent further irritation and the spread of infection.

9. Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help keep your nasal passages hydrated and thin out the mucus, making it easier for you to blow your nose. This can help reduce the risk of sinusitis.

10. Follow a healthy lifestyle

Eat well, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and manage stress to keep your immune system strong and lower the risk of infections like sinusitis.

When to See a Doctor for a Sinus Infection?

If you have a sinus infection, also called sinusitis, it might go away on its own or you might be able to treat it with home remedies. However, there are some situations where you should go to the doctor to make sure you get the right diagnosis and treatment. Here are some situations when you should go to the doctor:

  • Persistent Symptoms: If your symptoms are still there after 10 days or if they get worse over time, it's a good idea to go to the doctor. Persistent symptoms can mean that you have a more serious infection that needs to be treated by a doctor.

  • Severe Headaches: If you have severe headaches that don't go away even when you take over-the-counter pain relievers, you should go to the doctor. These headaches can mean something more serious is going on and should be checked out by a doctor.

  • High Fever: If you have a fever that lasts for several days or is very high, you should go to the doctor. A fever can be a sign of a bacterial infection, and it's important to get medical attention if this happens.

  • Visual Disturbances: If you have sinusitis and you start having changes in your vision or your eyes start to swell, you should go to the doctor right away. These symptoms can mean that something more serious is going on and should be checked out by a doctor as soon as possible.

  • Severe Facial Pain or Swelling: If you have severe facial pain or swelling, especially around your eyes, you should go to the doctor. These symptoms can mean that your sinus infection is getting worse or that there are other problems. The doctor can help figure out what's wrong and give you the right treatment.

  • No Improvement with Home Remedies: If home remedies and over-the-counter medications don't work after you've tried them for a while, it's a good idea to go to the doctor. The doctor can figure out what's wrong, change your treatment, or order more tests to see what's going on.

If you or someone you know is experiencing sinus symptoms that don't go away or you want to learn more about sinus health, Center One Medical is here to help. Our team of experienced healthcare professionals can provide personalized care that meets your specific needs. Contact us and schedule a consultation today. Let us help you find relief from your sinus symptoms and improve your overall health.


In conclusion, sinusitis can be a complex condition that needs to be understood in detail for it to be managed effectively. By understanding more about sinus infections, we can better equip ourselves to handle them when they happen. Whether it's preventing sinus issues, getting medical help, or seeing a doctor when needed, it's important to take a thorough approach to keep your sinuses healthy and stay well overall.


1. Are sinus infections always contagious?

  • Sinus infections can be contagious, but it depends on what is causing the infection. Some sinus infections are more contagious than others.

2. Can sinus infections be spread through airborne particles?

  • Yes, some of the viruses that can cause sinus infections can spread through the air, especially when you sneeze or cough.

3. What precautions should one take to prevent sinus infections?

  • Good hygiene, keeping your immune system strong, and staying away from things you're allergic to can help you avoid sinus infections.

4. Are there long-term effects of recurrent sinus infections?

  • If you have recurring sinus infections, it's important to get treatment as soon as possible to avoid any complications. These complications can include hearing loss or brain damage, which can be very serious.

5. How do sinus infections affect overall respiratory health?

  • Sinus infections can affect your overall respiratory health because they are all connected. A sinus infection can affect your nose, throat, and even your lungs.

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