Are Sinus Infections Contagious?

Are Sinus Infections Contagious? Sinus infections are among the most common (and bothersome) health problems that Americans face, causing uncomfortable sinus pressure, congestion, headaches and other annoyances that can linger for weeks and make it difficult to function normally. Understandably, many people wonder if sinus infections are contagious or not. Here’s the answer to this question: it depends!

A sinus infection can be caused by a virus, bacteria or fungi, although most infections are associated with viruses. If a virus is to blame for your sinus infection, then it is contagious and can potentially be transmitted to others. Viral sinus infections often develop as a result of the common cold, so it is more likely that you’ll spread the cold instead of a sinus infection.

Fungal and bacterial sinus infections, on the other hand, are not contagious, but these types of infections are uncommon. If you have a sinus infection, it’s best to assume that it is viral and take as many precautions as you can, like staying home from work or school.

How Can I Get Rid of My Sinus Infection?

On the topic of staying home, rest plays a key role in recovering from a viral sinus infection. Viruses must run their course, so getting lots of rest may help shorten the duration and severity of your illness. It’s also important to drink plenty of water and to stay away from things that can further irritate your sinuses, like cigarette smoke, strong perfumes and airborne allergens.

While treatments can’t “cure” a viral sinus infection, there are several steps you can take to reduce your symptoms as you recover. Try using a saline nasal spray to rinse your sinuses and an over-the-counter decongestant to help you breathe more easily. On average, the symptoms of a viral sinus infection last for about seven to 10 days.

While many sinus infections can be addressed with self-care measures, you should promptly seek medical care if:

  • You have a fever
  • Your symptoms don’t improve after a week
  • Your symptoms improve but then worsen
  • You experience severe symptoms, like intense headaches and sinus pressure

These scenarios may signal that your sinus infection is chronic or caused by something other than a virus. If this is the case, you may be given antibiotics or another form of treatment, such as a corticosteroid or antihistamine spray.

Less commonly, sinus infections can cause serious complications. Call 911 or visit an emergency room immediately if you or someone around you has:

  • New and unexplained neck stiffness
  • Sudden confusion
  • Noticeable swelling around the forehead or eyes
  • Double vision or difficulty seeing

Sinus Treatment at Tufts Medical Center Community Care

A clinical affiliate of Tufts Medical Center and multispecialty medical group, Tufts Medical Center Community Care includes family medicine doctors, internists and ENT specialists who provide world-class care to pediatric and adult patients with chronic and acute sinus infections. To schedule an appointment at one of our easily accessible locations in north suburban Boston, contact our friendly team today.

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