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Are Sinus Infections Contagious?

Last updated: Dec 18, 2022 Post in Otolaryngology In Brooklyn by Century Medical & Dental Clinic.

Runny nose, headache, tenderness under the eye and around the nose, accompanied by cough and sore throat are signs of a sinus infection. Result of viral exposure, these symptoms can turn very annoying as they affect normal routines and prevent you from participating in activities due to the fear of spreading the virus to others. Schedule an appointment with experienced and board-certified otolaryngologist at the Century Medical and Dental Center to get the best treatment for sinusitis and keep others safe from the contagious virus. The expert otolaryngology doctors help you understand how to take care of yourself during this time and feel better as soon as possible from these viral outbreaks.

What Is a Sinus Infection?

A sinus infection, or sinusitis, occurs when the air-filled pockets in the face, called sinuses, fill up with fluid, inflaming the sinus lining and preventing them from draining. The trapped mucus can allow bacteria to grow, which leads to an infection.

Viruses such as the common cold are the most frequent causes of sinusitis. Viral infections can spread from one person to another. If you have a sinus infection caused by a virus, there are chances that you will pass your cold to someone else, which increases the possibility that they will also develop a sinus infection.

Sinus infections are not contagious, but the underlying causes of the infections can be transmittable and lead to illness among people. Viral infections create the perfect environment for sinusitis to thrive. Fluid and mucus do not drain properly, and it begins to grow germs that lead to a sinus infection. Other causes of sinus infections that include bacterial infections, allergies, nasal polyps, and deviated septum are not contagious.
Are sinus infections contagious

Are Sinus Infections Contagious – What Causes Them?

Sinus infections can only be considered contagious if they stem from a viral infection. Infections caused by bacteria, allergies, or nasal disruptions are not infectious and do not spread. Knowing the root cause of your sinusitis is the only way to get the right treatment and stop the infection.

The duration of the infection and its symptoms enables you determine the source of your condition. If you are not sure what is causing the problem, consulting an otolaryngologist can help you find about what you are going through. Expert otolaryngologists deal with issues related to your ears, nose, and throat. They suggest the best treatment to relieve the annoying symptoms and make you feel better.

How to Avoid the Spread of Sinus Infections

Sinusitis can develop as a result of a cold or virus. Passing around these illnesses increases the risk of other people developing a sinus infection. Viruses spread by breathing in small droplets of water in the air and touching surfaces where these bacteria are present. A sinus infection caused by a viral infection lasts about 7 to 10 days. It means you can be contagious with the virus for up to two weeks.

You can avoid spreading a cold by wearing a mask when you are sick or staying away from the crowd to protect others from getting infected. Also, you must cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands frequently with soap and water.

Knowing the common causes of sinus infections can help you deal better with them and look for the best solution.

Some Common Causes of Sinus Infections

Viruses are the most common cause of sinus infections. Viral infections are also the most common cause of sinusitis, but it does not mean you are spreading a sinus infection. People who catch a cold or virus will only have usual symptoms that resolve within a few weeks.

It is necessary to understand that viral infections create the perfect environment for a sinus infection to breed, which means there are higher chances of developing sinusitis when you have a virus.


Bacteria or fungi can also cause sinus infections when they get trapped in the nasal and sinus passage. The good thing is that these infections are not contagious and cannot be transferred to others. Bacterial sinusitis is not very common. Only about 2% of sinus infections result from bacterial exposure.

Bacterial infections are the only kind of sinus infection that can be treated with antibiotics.

Nasal polyps

These are small benign tissue growths that can block the flow of air into the nasal passage, leading to congestion and other breathing issues. When nasal polyps cause swelling and block airflow for a longer time, they can result in sinus infections.

Nasal tumors

Cancerous nasal tumors or growths can cause sinusitis the same way as nasal polyps, as they block the airways. It leads to inflammation and buildup of bacteria-filled mucus, which results in sinus infections.


In most cases, allergies are the underlying cause of recurring or ongoing sinus infections. Allergy triggers cause the body to react and release histamine that causes swelling, congestion, sneezing, and other problems that result in improper airflow and stuffed nasal drainage.

Deviated Septum

It is a common condition in which the wall that separates the nostrils is either crooked or off-centre. Due to this, one nasal air passage ends up being smaller than the other one and leads to breathing or drainage problems. A severely deviated septum can affect your ability to breathe well and dry or drain out properly, and it can result in frequent sinus infections. Treatment of the underlying septum issue is the only way to address this condition.

Common Symptoms of Sinus Infections

Sinus infections cause uncomfortable symptoms regardless of the reasons behind them. These infections can affect everything from your breathing to sleeping patterns and your ability to focus and work.

Sinusitis can result in the following symptoms:

  • Sinus pain and pressure
  • Headache
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Loss of smell
  • Postnasal drip
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Bad breath
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

Acute Sinusitis vs. Chronic Sinusitis

It is essential to know that not all sinus infections are the same or lead to same issues. The length and severity of the symptoms can vary from person to person. When the symptoms develop and resolve in about 7 to 10 days, it is acute sinusitis. If the symptoms last for several weeks and continue to return frequently, it is chronic sinusitis.

Acute sinusitis usually develops from a cold, while chronic sinusitis stems from some underlying cause such as bacterial infections, allergies, or nasal polyps.

How to Treat a Sinus Infection

There are many different ways to treat a sinus infection and seek relief from the irritating symptoms. Most common treatment methods include:

  • Over the counter medication
  • Home remedies
  • Prescription care

Visiting your primary care doctor can help determine the root cause behind your condition, and get the best advice regarding its treatment.


Breathing in steam can hydrate the dry sinus passage and break down the mucus so that the sinuses can drain easily. Inhaling steam from hot water in a bowl or taking a hot shower can alleviate the ressure and pain resulting from sinus infection.

Doing this regularly can also prevent congestion and sinus infections in the long run.

Nasal Sprays

Nasal sprays can keep the nasal passage moist and reduce congestion and swelling. Sprays are an effective means to avoid the symptoms of sinus infections, but they should be used carefully as excessive use of chemicals in decongestants can also result in dryness and do more harm than good. Consult your primary care doctor regarding the choice of nasal sprays that can be used for a longer time.

Saline Nasal Flush

Using a saline solution of distilled water and salt can help to flush out the nasal airways and add moisture to the sinuses. It is also effective for breaking up the thick mucus that blocks the nasal passage and leads to inflammation. Nasal irrigation can be done in several ways, including the Neti poti, which has been a popular saline flush therapy for centuries.

A frequent saline flush can keep the sinuses drained, which reduces the risk of developing a sinus infection.


Commonly used over the counter medications to manage sinus infections include:

  • Pain relievers
  • Decongestants
  • Antihistamines

They reduce the swelling, pain, and nasal blockage caused by the sinus infection. These medications also help with other symptoms such as coughing and postnasal drip related to sinusitis. Before taking over-the-counter medications, make sure that they will not react with any prescription medications or natural remedies you are already taking.


Doctors often prescribe antibiotics to clear up a sinus infection when it does not seem to be going away on its own. Antibiotics are only prescribed when the infection is caused by bacteria, which is rare as most infections result from transmittable viruses. As most sinus infections are viral, it means antibiotics are not an effective treatment in such cases.


If allergies are the primary cause of your recurring sinus infections, they can be treated with immunotherapy. Easy immunotherapy allergy drops can be a long-term solution to this problem as more than the symptoms, they address the causes. The immunotherapy drops are taken daily under the tongue and slowly increase the body’s tolerance for allergens. They increase your resistance, and you no longer have to experience the repetitive congestion and sinus infections that stem from allergy.

Sinus Surgery

Surgery is perhaps the most effective and long-term solution to treating recurring or chronic sinusitis. It is a procedure called FESS or balloon sinuplasty. During this procedure, the surgeon opens and enlarges the sinus cavities, which ensures a long-term improved airflow and drainage.

Larger sinus openings help the infection drain and provide regular drainage for a long time, which means fewer sinus issues and infections in the future.

When to See a Doctor for Your Sinus Infections?

Most sinus infections resolve within a couple of weeks without any medical assistance. However, if your sinus issues become painful and begin to interfere with your routine life, and affect your eating and sleeping patterns, you must consult a doctor.

You should seek medical attention if you experience the following:

  • A fever over 102°F (38.8°C)
  • Double vision or difficulty seeing
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • A swollen forehead
  • A sudden stiff neck
  • Confusion
  • Intense, consistent pain and headache
  • Sinus symptoms lasting more than 6 weeks
  • Multiple sinus infections within 12 months
  • Over the counter medications that are not helping

You should seek medical attention if you are not sure the symptoms you are experiencing are those of sinusitis or something severe.

If your sinus infection is due to a virus, you may end up passing this virus to other people too. They may not develop a sinus infection but a cold. Taking precautions is necessary to prevent the spread of the virus and to keep yourself, as well as others, safe. Consult expert otolaryngologists at the Century Medical and Dental Center to learn about the causes of a sinus infection, how it spreads and what you can do to prevent congestion and soothe inflammation and sinus pressure. Lots of rest, home remedies, and over-the-counter medications are the best way to treat sinus infections. The top otolaryngology doctors NY ensure that your condition is not serious and help you find quick relief.

SHARE THIS POST Page Updated on Dec 18, 2022 by Dr. Dvorkina (Primary Care Doctor) of Century Medical & Dental Center
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