Sinus infections (sinusitis) can cause a long list of symptoms – such as nasal congestion and drainage, fatigue, headaches, and more – that can make you miserable. Symptoms can persist for months or even longer, so you may wonder if these infections are contagious and if you can do anything to avoid getting them.
In this blog, the ear, nose, and throat doctors at New York ENT explain whether sinus infections are contagious.
What causes sinus infections?
The following conditions can cause sinus infections:
- Respiratory tract infections – These types of infections can include a cold, and they can be viral (most commonly), bacterial or fungal.
- Structural issues – A structural abnormality in your nose or sinuses can create a blockage that could lead to a sinus infection. These include nasal polyps (non-cancerous growths) and a deviated septum (off-center wall of bone and cartilage between your two nostrils)
- Allergies – such as hay fever
- Other medical conditions – complications from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), immune system diseases and cystic fibrosis
Are they contagious?
Sinus infections themselves are not likely to be contagious, but the conditions that cause them often are. The following are common types of sinus infections and their causes:
Viral Sinus Infections
This type of infection is caused by respiratory viruses like the cold and flu, and it’s the most common cause of a sinus infection. These types of viruses are contagious, so if you’re around someone who’s sick – or even touch an object that they’ve recently touched – you could also catch the virus. It could then develop into sinusitis.
Bacterial Sinus Infections
This type of infection can develop if your sinuses are blocked and filled with mucus, allowing bacteria to grow. If the blockage is caused by allergies, structural issues, or GERD, it won’t be contagious. But if it’s initially caused by a viral infection such as the cold or the flu, it’s more likely to develop into a bacterial infection. Sinus infections caused by bacteria – without the presence of a virus – aren’t contagious.
How can you help prevent getting a sinus infection?
To help prevent catching a virus that could develop into a sinus infection, take the following steps:
- Practice good hand hygiene – Wash your hands frequently with soap and water when it’s available, and if not, use hand sanitizer.
- Keep your distance – When you know someone’s sick, try to keep some distance from them when possible.
- Keep your hands away from your nose and mouth – Try to be aware of when you touch your nose or mouth without thinking, and cut down on the habit. If your hands have germs on them, you’re providing a gateway for them to enter your body through your nose or mouth.
- Get vaccinated – The flu shot and pneumonia vaccine can help you stay healthy.
- Use a face mask – Although face masks are more prevalent in other cultures, wearing one can help keep you from spreading and catching viruses.
If you’re experiencing nasal congestion, drainage, or other symptoms, make an appointment today with New York ENT. We can help diagnose and treat the cause of your symptoms and provide the treatment needed to help you get relief.