People get nervous when someone else sneezes or coughs, especially in an enclosed space. Understandable since the world is still dealing with a pandemic. No one wants to be infected or infect because of healthcare costs, the anxiety of being sick and the limitations it will impose.
And when it comes to a “stuffy nose,” your concern may be to find out if what you have is contagious. A stuffy nose that isn’t going away may be sinusitis or a sinus infection.
Are sinusitis infections contagious? How long will you be contagious if you develop it? And what can you do to get rid of it?
First, we must learn more about this infection.
What is Sinus Infection?
Sinus infection happens when inflammation hits the tissues lining the sinuses, filling up with fluid and keeping the sinuses from draining them.
Sinuses are the spaces within the bones in your forehead, eyes and behind your cheekbones. The job of the sinuses is to create mucus to moisten the noise, which act as protection against pollen, dust, pollutants and other allergens.
You’ll know you have sinusitis when you have:
- Stuffy nose
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Post-nasal drip
Sometimes, you may even have bad breath and notice swelling around your eyes. Fever, toothache and fatigue are also symptoms of sinusitis. And how you get sinus infection determines whether the condition is contagious.
Can You Pass a Sinus Infection to Someone?
Is a sinus infection contagious? The short answer is yes and no.
A sinus infection is contagious if it was brought on by a virus. You may spread the virus that caused it, but not the infection. What does that mean? It means that if you were to infect another person, they may or may not get sinusitis.
But not all sinus infections are due to a virus; some cases are brought on by bacteria. If a bacterial infection caused your sinusitis, it’s not contagious.
In some cases, allergies could cause a sinus infection. Tobacco, dry air or pollution may trigger the condition.
Can you tell on your own if what your sinusitis is viral or bacterial — or just an allergic reaction? No, you can’t definitively because symptoms can be similar. But the duration of your sinusitis may be able to tell you if it’s viral or bacterial.
How Long Do Sinus Infections Last?
A sinus infection caused by a virus doesn’t last as long as an infection caused by a bacteria. A contagious sinus infection typically lasts seven to ten days. Whereas a non-contagious sinusitis lasts some ten to 14 days.
So when your symptoms persist for more than ten days or it subsides after a week and returns, you may have bacterial sinusitis instead of one that is contagious.
How long are you contagious when you have viral sinus infection?
You may be contagious for up to two weeks.
The virus spreads the same way a cold or flu is passed on. When you cough or sneeze, the particles and droplets that have virus become airborne. And the infection spreads to other people.
Aside from that, viral sinus infection is contagious through physical touch. Surfaces you touched may carry the virus, infecting others.
Because the symptoms of a sinus infection tend to overlap with that of COVID-19, it’s crucial to learn what it is you have. COVID sinus infection may cause more serious harm than your typical sinusitis. Not only are you risking your health but that of others, too.
Sinusitis symptoms with COVID will include shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting and loss of taste or smell, among others. When your runny nose, headaches and cough are accompanied by those symptoms, get a checkup and a test.
Otherwise, your doctor will be able to prescribe medication and routines to help you get rid of the infection.
What is the Fastest Way to Get Rid of Sinus Infection?
Bacterial or viral, a sinus infection must be managed early on so that you don’t run the risk of it developing into something worse. What happens if you let a sinus infection go untreated?
The infection could spread to the larynx, eyes and in some cases, the brain. Complications could go beyond laryngitis; it may also lead to cavernous sinus thrombosis (blood clot in the hollow areas of the brain), brain abscess, dacryocystitis (inflammation of the lacrynal glands) and meningitis.
But how do you get rid of your sinusitis when preventive healthcare missed the mark?
- Drink ginger tea with honey for their antioxidants and antimicrobial properties
- Try a neti pot with a saline solution for nasal irrigation
- Ease pain in the nasal passages with OTC medications: acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Try a warm compress to ease facial pain
- Hydrate sinuses with a humidifier or a steam bath
- Drink 8 ounces of water every two hours
- Get plenty of rest
When your sinus infection isn’t getting any better or you’ve had one several times a year, see a doctor.
How Do You Prevent a Sinus Infection from Being Contagious?
Follow good personal hygiene, so you don’t pass on the infection to family or others. At home, practice preventive strategies from transmitting the disease.
- Wash your hands and sanitize if necessary
- Clean and sanitize your home, especially the surfaces
- Update your immunizations
- Avoid crowded places when you’ve got a cold
- Use a clean humidifier at home
A stuffy nose is sometimes not just clogged nasal passages. When your symptoms match a sinus infection, a contagious effect could occur. Don’t spread the infection to others and manage your symptoms to prevent a sinusitis from worsening.