Skye likes writing about mental health, nutrition, and wellness. She is passionate about sharing information that will educate, and positively affect people's lives.
Po-Chang Hsu, M.D.
Dr. Hsu received his medical degree from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, and holds a Master’s of Science degree from both Harvard University and Tufts University. Outside of the medical profession, Dr. Hsu loves to write, learn new languages, and travel.
February 5, 2021
Yes, sinus infections are contagious. In fact, as viruses cause most sinus infections, most people with sinus infections were actually contagious days before their symptoms even started.
Most people aren’t even aware of their sinuses until there’s a problem. If you’ve ever had a stuffy nose, you know how much the average person takes clear sinuses for granted. There are over three million cases of sinus infections in the United States every year.
According to the CDC, “Sinus infections happen when fluid builds up in the air-filled pockets in the face (sinuses), which allows germs to grow”. There are two different types of sinus infections; bacterial and viral. Sinus infections are often self-diagnosable and can be treated with antibiotics that must be prescribed by a doctor.
Read on to learn more about the causes of sinus infections, the two different types of sinus infections, how long you are contagious for, and how to get treatment.
If you have experienced or can relate to any of the following, you may be at risk for a sinus infection.
Just about anyone can get a sinus infection. They’re most commonly found in adults, but children and the elderly can also be affected. 20% of those diagnosed by a doctor with a sinus infection also have a family history of sinus infections. 15% of the people with chronic sinusitis correctly self-diagnosed themselves before seeing a medical professional.
There are two main types of sinus infections that people experience. If you visit a doctor in person or online, they’ll likely let you know which one you have. Depending on your symptoms, you’ll probably be able to tell for yourself. Here are the two most common types of sinus infections.
Acute sinusitis is the shortest and least problematic type of sinus infection. It usually forms from a viral infection like the common cold. Viral sinus infections are the most common kind of sinusitis.
Chronic sinusitis is much more aggressive than acute sinusitis. The symptoms may be more or less severe, but they can last for several months. Bacterial infections are usually to blame for chronic sinusitis. If a patient already has persistent allergies or nasal problems, they’re more likely to experience this type of sinusitis.
There are a few ways to know if your sinus infection is viral or bacterial. Check out the chart below to compare the two.
|Type of Infection||Viral Sinus Infection – Acute Sinusitis||Bacterial Sinus Infection – Chronic Sinusitis|
|Duration of Infection||Clear after 5 -7 days||Persists or gets worse for more than 10 days|
|Accompanying symptoms||Often accompanied by a cold, the flu, or some other viral sickness||Infection is severe, including a fever over 102°F, headache, and nasal discharge|
|Most Common Cause||Usually caused by a viral upper respiratory infection.||Usually caused by a bacterial infection of the lining of your facial and nasal cavities|
Patients experience a small variety of symptoms that last anywhere between a few days to two weeks. Unless your doctor has ruled out a viral infection, you should refrain from close contact with others until your symptoms disappear.
Seasonal allergies are known to cause acute sinusitis. Allergy-related sinus infections are not contagious from one person to another.
Subacute sinusitis exists as well. It’s considered an “in-between” of the two types listed above. Seasonal allergies or bacterial infections usually cause it. Subacute sinusitis is known to last for up to three months. Bacterial sinus infections are not contagious.
You only need to stay home if the sinus infection is viral and, therefore, contagious. If it’s from allergies or bacteria, you’ll be okay to socialize. If you’re unsure of which type of sinusitis you have, it’s prudent to stay home and wait for symptoms to pass.
Stay home and get treatment immedetly. Getting a prescription from an online doctor is the fastest way to get treatment without risking exposure to anyone else. Our trusted partners at PlushCare have doctors available that can diagnose and prescribe antibiotics for sinus infections. Click here to make an appointment with a PlushCare doctor.
According to the CDC, there are a handful of common symptoms of sinus infections. If you’re experiencing the following, you may have acute or chronic sinusitis.
Babies experiencing sinus infections may get a fever. If your baby has a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher and is younger than three months old, seek emergency help as soon as possible.
Anyone with severe pain in their face or a worsening headache should consider seeking medical attention. If you have a fever lasting longer than four days or if symptoms get worse after initially improving, make an appointment with your doctor.
The majority of treatments available for sinus infections work by unblocking and draining the sinuses. Some doctors will prescribe patients an antibiotic if the infection is bacterial and has lasted longer than 10 days. If the infection is viral, you likely won’t respond to antibiotics of any kind, so you’ll just have to wait it out. But there are a few ways that symptoms can be alleviated by some home treatments.
Prescription and over-the-counter nasal sprays reduce the swelling of the nasal passages. This helps mucus flow more effectively away from the sinuses. If your doctor notices excessive amounts of mucus, they may prescribe a saline solution that you can use to flush the mucus out.
Medical professionals may prescribe antifungal medicines if the infection is brought on by fungus. If a fungal sinus infection is serious, you may be prescribed steroids or even a surgical procedure to clear away the mucus.
There are also many home remedies available for those suffering from a sinus infection.
Here’s what you can do at home to clear your sinuses as soon as possible.
A great way to help with a sinus infection is by using a humidifier. This will add moisture to the air and eventually soften the mucus in your sinuses. After that, it should be able to flow more naturally out of your nose.
If you’re looking for a way to relieve your symptoms, steam inhalation is known to help. You can purchase a facial steamer online, or you can lean over a bowl of hot water and deeply inhale through your nose.
If you need more relief, add some natural essential oils like eucalyptus or peppermint to the water.
Staying hydrated is always vital to being healthy. When we’re sick, drinking plenty of water always helps. When you’re experiencing a sinus infection, drinking a lot of water can help loosen mucus and clear congestion. You can also drink hot lemon water, herbal teas, and vegetable broth to get your sinuses moving.
If your symptoms persist or become worse, consider getting an online consultation from a doctor.
For very severe symptoms or emergency medical issues, visit the emergency room.
No one likes being sick, and having a sinus infection can be very uncomfortable. Getting antibiotics as fast as possible is crucial to healing and is made possible with PlushCare.
PlushCare online doctors can diagnose your sinus infection, write a prescription, and send it to your local pharmacy in 15 minutes. PlushCare can help you effectively, quickly, and efficiently treat your sinus infection.
Click here to book an appointment with a doctor.
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