Is a Sinus Infection Contagious?

A sinus infection, also known as sinusitis, is one of the most common illnesses treated on LiveHealth Online, especially during the winter months. You may know some of the key symptoms, such as facial pain, congestion and mucus, but how contagious is a sinus infection? Read on to find out.  

What is a sinus infection?

A sinus infection is when one or more of your sinuses (air-filled pockets located in the face) become inflamed. Once your sinuses are inflamed, fluid may build up and allow germs to grow. This can result in congestion, a runny nose, and all those other symptoms that may lead you to feel icky and under the weather.

Symptoms of a sinus infection:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Facial pain, tooth pain or increasing sinus pressure 
  • Headache 
  • Mucus in the back of the throat (also called “postnasal drip”)
  • Sore throat 
  • Cough
  • Bad breath

There are a few other factors that may make you more likely to get a sinus infection. These include: 

  • A previous cold 
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Smoking or regular exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Nasal polyps (growths inside your nose or sinuses)
  • A weak immune system

What’s the difference between a cold and a sinus infection? Here’s how to tell. 

So, is a sinus infection contagious? 

It depends. Sinus infections caused by bacteria or allergies are not contagious. 

However, if your infection is caused by a virus, then it likely is contagious. Viruses can be spread from person to person, or even in the air through coughing or sneezing. When a virus is passed onto another person, they may develop a cold, but it might not necessarily become a sinus infection.  

Care and treatment 

Just like you would for a common cold, it’s important to rest so you can recover from a sinus infection faster. Whether your infection is viral or bacterial, aim to stay hydrated and eat nutritious foods. Saline sprays or nasal decongestants can also help ease your symptoms. 

Doctors you can consult with on LiveHealth Online can generally determine if your infection is bacterial or viral based on the duration of your symptoms. Viral sinus infections typically get better after five to seven days while a bacterial infection may last over 10 days, or actually worsen over time. 

Sometimes, you may be given a prescription for a sinus infection. However, antibiotics aren’t needed for all sinus infections — only for bacterial infections. Your doctor can decide if antibiotics are necessary for your treatment plan. 

If you think you may have a sinus infection or want to discuss symptoms or care, talk to a doctor on LiveHealth Online from the comfort of home and get back to health.

See a board certified doctor using LiveHealth Online and feel better faster.

What is LiveHealth Online?

LiveHealth Online is a service where you select a doctor, and he or she can answer questions, assess your condition and even provide a prescription if needed. Learn more

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