Are Sinus Infections Contagious? Understanding Sinusitis and Its Spread

on January 12th, 2024
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in Health Information and Tips

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 29 million adults are diagnosed with sinus infection. In addition, 234,000 people require emergency room visits due to a chronic sinus infection.

A sinus infection, called sinusitis, occurs when the cavities around the nasal passengers become inflamed. A bacterial infection, viral infection, or allergy can irritate the sinuses, causing them to become blocked and filled with mucus.

As a result, it often causes pressure and pain in the face, a runny nose, and other symptoms. Fortunately, sinus infection is treatable with proper medical interventions.

Consider visiting a trusted urgent care center if you or a loved one is looking for quick and lasting relief from a sinus infection.

What Causes Sinus Infections?

Fungi, allergens, bacteria, and viruses can cause sinus infections. Sometimes, if a sinus cavity becomes blocked for some time, it may develop into a bacterial infection.

A few triggers of sinus infections include:

  • Flu
  • Common cold
  • Seasonal and nasal allergies
  • Common bacteria such as Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Moraxella catarrhalis

A sinus infection occurs when a virus, bacteria, or fungi settle in the sinus, triggering inflammation in the area lining your sinuses. Consequently, the sinus cavity fills up with fluid and becomes blocked.

People with nasal allergies already have sinus irritation and are susceptible to sinus infections. Similarly, you’re more likely to develop a sinus infection from bacteria or mold if you have a weak immune system.

Common Symptoms of Sinus Infection

  • A stuffy or blocked nose, known as congestion, makes it hard to breathe
  • Ear pressure or pain
  • Post-nasal drip— thick, greenish, or yellow mucus —from the nose or back of your throat
  • Bad breath in the mouth or bad breath
  • Pain or pressure in your teeth
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Pain, swelling, or pressure in the face— specifically eyes, nose, or forehead —may worsen when you move your head or bend over.

Is Sinusitis Contagious?

A sinus infection in itself is not contagious.

However, the bacteria and viruses that cause sinus infection are transmittable from one person to another. Sinus infection is not transferable because a virus or bacteria causes it, but it is not an infectious agent that can be transmitted from one person to another.

Therefore, you cannot get a sinus infection from another person. However, you can get an illness from the virus or bacteria that causes a sinus infection.

How to Treat a Sinus Infection?


A healthcare provider can determine if you have an infection based on your symptoms and health history. A doctor can also conduct a physical exam by checking your ears, nose, and throat for swelling, blockage, and drainage.

They can also feel tenderness in the nose and face. A healthcare provider can also use an endoscope to inspect the inside of your nose. Alternatively, a primary healthcare provider can refer you to an ear, eye, and nose specialist if they’re not sure about the cause of your illness.

Here are other specific tests that a healthcare provider might order to diagnose a sinus infection:

  • Imaging Tests: A doctor can order a CT scan to get the details of the sinuses and nasal area. An imaging test is not used for a mild sinus infection but to rule out other causes.
  • Nasal Endoscopy: Nasal endoscopy is a diagnostic procedure that gives a healthcare provider a clear view of sinuses and nasal passages. During endoscopy, a doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera into your nose.
  • Nasal Swabs: A healthcare provider can use a soft-tipped stick to obtain a fluid sample inside your nose. Subsequently, they test the fluid for viruses and bacteria that might be causing your symptoms.
  • Allergy Testing: If an allergy has triggered your sinus infection, an allergy test might show the cause of your illness. Skin-prick testing is often used when the healthcare provider suspects nasal allergy as the cause. A doctor injects small amounts of possible allergens beneath the skin during the examination. You may be allergic to that allergen if the area becomes red and inflamed.


People who get a mild sinus infection get better without medical attention. The symptoms improve with simple self-care tips.

If sinus infection symptoms persist, it is advisable to seek medical attention from a healthcare provider.

Depending on the symptoms and how long you’ve experienced the sinus infection, various treatment options exist.

The following treatment options can enhance recovery from the symptoms of a sinus infection:


You can obtain decongestants with or without a prescription. These medications come in the form of tablets, sprays, or syrup. Healthcare providers recommend patients use decongestants for a few days because they may worsen their nasal congestion or rebound congestion.

Saline Nasal Spray

It is a medicated salt water that health care providers request you spray into your nose a few times daily. The role of saline nasal spray is to reduce the thick nasal secretions in the nose and sinuses and enhance the cleansing of allergens, germs, and particles.

Allergy Medicines

If an allergy causes a sinus infection, medication may lessen your symptoms.

Pain Relievers

A healthcare provider can recommend common pain relievers like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin. However, it is recommended to exercise caution when giving aspirin to teenagers or children.


A healthcare provider cannot recommend antibiotics to treat an acute sinus infection caused mainly by viruses. Even if the sinus infection is caused by bacterial infection, it may get better on its own.

As such, a healthcare provider may wait to see if the sinus infection worsens before prescribing antibiotics. Even so, you may need antibiotic treatment for severe and worsening symptoms.

Always take the entire dose of antibiotics even after symptoms become better. There is a chance the symptoms may reoccur if you don’t finish the medications.


You may need an allergy shot to treat a sinus infection made worse by allergies. It is a long-term treatment for reducing or managing sinus infection symptoms for many allergy patients.

Immunotherapy is highly effective because instead of temporarily stopping the symptoms, the allergy shot addresses the cause.

The allergy shots enhance your immune system. Each allergy shot you receive gradually strengthens your immune system— that way, the body stops overreacting to specific allergens over time.

How Long Does a Sinus Infection Last?

In most cases, sinus infection symptoms disappear within 10 days or a week unless bacteria cause it, often called bacteria infection. Home remedies are mostly enough to clear an acute sinus infection.

An infection that lasts more than 12 weeks, even with medication, is called chronic sinusitis.

How to Prevent a Sinus Infection?

Although many people who get sinus infections clear without needing medical attention, taking preventive measures can protect your well-being and others.

Here are a few tips for managing and preventing sinus infections:

  • Manage Allergies: Work with your healthcare provider to keep your allergy symptoms under control. You can take several steps to prevent allergies, including taking medications and allergy shots or avoiding known allergy triggers such as pollen, smoke, or dust.
  • Practice Good Hygiene: Regularly wash your hands with soap and running water before preparing meals and eating or after visiting the bathroom. In addition, stay away from people with common colds and other infections.
  • Avoid Polluted Air and Cigarette Smoke: If you inhale tobacco smoke and other air pollutants, it can irritate your lungs and nasal passages and trigger sinus infections.
  • Enhance Your Immune System: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can boost your immune system. Common ways to obtain a robust immune system include regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, managing stress, and getting enough sleep.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking lots of water helps thin the mucus and prevent sinus congestion.
  • Use a Dehumidifier: A dehumidifier enhances the air’s moisture level. Adding moisture to the air may prevent a sinus infection if your home moisture is dry. Ensure the humidifier stays clean and mold-free through regular and complete cleaning.

When to See a Doctor for Sinus Infection

Are Sinus Infections Contagious?

Many people recover from a sinus infection without seeing a doctor.

Contact a healthcare provider if you have developed any of the following:

  • A persistent fever
  • Sinus infection symptoms that last more than a week
  • Symptoms that worsen even after seeming to get better
  • A history of recurring sinus infection or chronic sinusitis

The following symptoms might indicate a severe sinus infection, highlighting the need for immediate medical attention:

  • Confusion
  • High fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Vision changes or double vision
  • Swelling, redness, or swelling around the eyes

Visit Newport Urgent Care Center For Quality and Timely Care

In addition to irritating symptoms and discomfort, sinus infection can develop into a severe condition. If left untreated, a sinus infection can develop into chronic sinusitis, meningitis, vision problems, and other infections.

Consider visiting an experienced physician from a trusted facility like Newport Urgent Care Center to receive timely and quality care.

Contact us online or call us at 949.828.0613 to book an appointment.