Get answers: Are sinus infections contagious? What causes them? How to Prevent viral, bacterial or fungal sinus infections and how long sinus infection last?
Sinus Infections (Sinusitis or Rhinosinusitis), is a swelling or inflammation of the tissues or four pairs of paranasal sinuses which are cavities surrounding the nose. The main function of sinus is to warm, moisten and filter the air in the nasal cavity. They are also responsible for our ability to vocalize certain sounds.
The sinuses are tube-like structures that connect nose, mouth, eyes and throat to the nasal passages and lined with the same mucous membranes. Colds, allergies, pollutants and exposure to several chemicals cause inflammation in the mucous membranes of the sinus opening and obstruct sinus drainage.
What Causes Sinus Infections?
A bad cold is often mistaken for sinusitis (sinus disease). A sinus infection contagious or allergic, begins when mucus builds up on the lining of sinuses. Bacteria, viruses, and fungi in the body may also reproduce and attack the inflamed sinuses. People with allergies, asthma or having weak immunity are more likely to have sinus infections. Swimmers and divers are also at high risk to sinusitis due to pressure on sinus cavities.
Sinus is usually followed by respiratory tract infection, and cold. Sinusitis can sometimes be a long term, intricate by allergies or structural problems in the nose or may be a short-term, acute inflammation. Acute sinusitis often clears up within a few weeks. Chronic sinusitis can last for twelve weeks or more.
Sinusitis may be chronic or acute but have similar signs and symptoms, but acute sinusitis is a short-term infection of the sinuses often linked with a cold. While chronic sinusitis is like an acute sinusitis, except they last longer and cause more exhaustion.
Sinus Infections Types and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of sinusitis differ depending on the level of severity of the inflammation and may involve: Blocked or runny nose, itchy watery nose, sneezing, Thick mucus from the nose or down the throat, Loss of sense of smell or taste, Sore throat, Temperature, Facial congestion and Headache/toothache that is worse with bending forward.
Sinus can be classified in various types, depending on how long the problem lasts (acute, sub acute, chronic) and either the type of inflammation is infectious or noninfectious.
- Acute Sinusitis is defined as having a duration of less than 30 days.
- Sub Acute Sinusitis lasts a period from one to three months.
- Chronic Sinusitis is defined as having a duration longer than 3 months.
Sinus infections symptoms, sensitivity and pain may vary. Following symptoms are usually observed in sinus infections:
- Cheeks or incisors pain may be caused by inflammation of the maxillary sinus.
- Pain in the forehead, above the eyebrows, can be caused by inflammation of the frontal sinus.
- Retro ocular pain (behind the eyes), in the head or in both temples can be caused by inflammation of the sphenoid sinus.
- Peri orbital pain is determined by the inflammation of the ethmoid sinus.
- Headache and forehead pain
- Diminished sensitivity of taste or smell
- Yellowish or greenish discharge from the nose leaking from the back of the throat.
- Bad breath in some case
- Productive cough
- Fever and body pains
Infectious sinusitis is contiguous. These sinusitis infections are be caused by virus, bacteria or fungi:
Viral Sinus Infections Symptoms
The most common kind of sinusitis is viral sinus infection rather than the bacterial infection. The viral infections are not severe and prolong, viruses that cause the common cold are generally the cause for the sinus infection.
So, usually the symptoms last for seven to ten days and subside by their own without using antibiotics. There are few symptoms which indicate that the cold may be a sinus infection.
In a viral sinus infection there is flu which can also lead to high fever, body pains, runny nose and nasal congestion. The flu’s symptoms are normally diagnosed within two days.
Bacterial Sinus Infections Symptoms
Bacterial sinus occurs due to severe sinus infections but is less common. Common bacteria that cause sinus infection include: Streptococcus pneumonia, Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenza, Moraxella catarrhalis.
Bacterial sinus infection and viral sinus infection shares common symptoms so it is difficult to differentiate. In some cases a viral sinus infection can also develops into bacterial sinus infection. Still there are certain signs and symptom to distinguish among viral and bacterial sinus to treat.
Bacterial sinusitis occurs when fluid is filled in sinuses and fluid is overfull in these pockets. A bacterial growth triggers in moist areas so bacterial infection occurs. Most patients experiencing bacterial sinusitis may have symptoms of facial pain, toothache, nasal discharge, fever and ear obstruction feeling. If symptoms show no improvement after seven to ten days it is safe to say that it is bacterial sinus infection.
Fungal Sinusitis Infection Symptoms
Fungus may cause inflammation in the nose and the sinuses. Fungal sinusitis can come in many forms, differing in pathology, symptoms, course, severity and the treatment required. Fungal sinus infections are classified into invasive and non-invasive types. Most fungal sinus infections are noninvasive or benign, except for the patients with very weak immune system. Some recent research shows that fungal sinusitis infection cause chronic rhinosinusitis.
Fungal Sinus Infections symptoms can form within an hour or can take a day or two to fully manifest. There are many forms of fungal sinusitis. Only evaluation by your doctor can determine if you have a form of fungal sinusitis and how it needs to be treated. For some fungal sinusitis infections the treatment of choice is surgical.
How Sinusitis Infections are Diagnosed?
By early diagnosis of sinus infection , you can avoid later symptoms and complications. If you think you have sinus disease, see your doctor for proper diagnosis. In most cases, sinus disease treatment is easy. Sinus infection diagnosis is symptomatic. It depends upon the symptoms and requires an examination of the throat and nose to look for the following sinus infection symptoms:
- Swelling of the nasal tissues
- Tenderness of the face
- Discolored (greenish) nasal discharge
- Bad Breath
Are Sinus Infections Contagious?
Is a sinus infection contagious? Well, not all the time a person can catch a sinus infection from another person. But the viruses and bacteria that cause colds and other respiratory tract infections trigger the sinusitis. Infectious Sinus spreads from person to person by transmitting germs through cough, sneeze, laugh, talk or touching contaminated surface.
Mostly sinus infections are not contagious. However there are some circumstances when they can spread and infect the healthy person.
How A Sinus Infection is treated?
A sinus infection treatment depends upon type and symptoms. Common viral sinus infection treatment includes painkiller (for pain and fever relief), antibiotics (to avoid secondary infection), nasal sprays, nasal cleaners
and stream (for fast recovery). Over the counter (OTC) nasal decongestants and antihistamines can also be used in cases of cough and chest congestion.
In some cases your doctor my prescribe topical nasal corticosteroids sprays to prevent and reverse inflammation and swelling in the nasal passages and sinus openings, addressing the biggest problem associated with sinusitis. The corticosteroids spray are effective by shrinking and preventing the return of nasal polyps.
For hard to treat sinus infections, where drugs have failed, surgery may be recommended as a last resort. It is usually performed by an otolaryngologist. Surgical treatment of sinus infections address anatomical defects of the respiratory tract to resolve the problem.
Prevent Contagious Sinus Infections
Now the question arises that is it possible to prevent sinusitis infection? Practically there is no way to stay away from cold completely or to remove all allergens. But all that is possible is to limit the exposure to environment contaminated with virus and bacteria. There are preventive procedures to control the contagious and non-contagious sinusitis.
There are many precautions to reduce the spread of contagious sinus infections. Hand washing or use of hand sanitizes can reduce the chance of contamination from respiratory viruses. Wearing a face mask can reduce the spread of viruses that cause sinusitis. The pneumococcal vaccine and the getting flu shots can help prevent viral and pneumococcal/bacterial infection and sinusitis.
Here is a summary of how to prevent contagious sinus infections from acquiring or spreading, mostly viral respiratory types:
- Frequent hands washing with soap or disinfecting hands with sanitizes
- Frequent hands washing with soap and water
- Waearing face masks
- Social distancing; avoid handshaking with infected person
- Get Vaccination; flu shots and pneumococcal vaccine helps preventing sinusitis infections
If you get sinus infection please consider rest and staying home from work or school. It will not only help you recover fast but also help in preventing contagious sinus infection from spreading to community.
There are also several ways to prevent non-contagious sinusitis and reduce the threat of sinus infections. If you have acute sinusitis, nasal irrigation with nasal spray, nebulizer, and douch keep the inside of your nose moist. Quit smoking as smoking increases the risk of developing sinusitis. Eating a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals, egg yolk, apricot, milk , Vitamin C, flex seeds etc can reduce the risk of developing upper respiratory tract infections, including sinusitis.
Dr. Alen Cohen, MD, FACS is an Otolaryngology Specialist and Ears, Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgeon at West Hills Hospital, Los Angeles, CA, US. You can check out his experts options on topics like How does smoking makes sinusitis worse? Do I need antibiotics for sinusitis? Is sinus serious? and How do I prevent a sinus infection:
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Center for Diseases Control (CDC) Sinus Help recommends to check yourself for Sinusitis Risk Factors and to know when to seek medical help. People having allergies should avoid the triggering factors of sinusitis and use the prescribed treatment. So the best approach to prevent sinusitis is to avoid colds and flu or treat problems quickly and timely by effective methods.