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When someone close to you—a friend or family member—gets a sinus infection, your first instinct may be to avoid them. Or you may reach for the hand sanitizer if you can’t get to a sink to scrub your hands. Those are understandable reactions, especially given how miserable sinus infections can make a person feel. It’s not something you want to catch.
So can you catch a sinus infection? Are they actually contagious? To determine whether or not a sinus infection is contagious depends on the root cause of the infection.
Suppose your sinus infection was caused by a virus (similar to what can cause a cold). Other people in the family or around you could be at risk for also contracting the virus and having it develop into a sinus infection.
However, if you spread the virus to another individual, they may not develop a sinus infection. They may develop a cold instead.
Suppose a family member has an infection caused by an irritant, such as nasal polyps, severe allergies or bacteria. In that case, the sinus infection would not be contagious.
This is one of the reasons it’s important to seek professional medical treatment when you suspect you, or someone close to you, might have a sinus infection. The doctor can properly diagnosis the underlying cause of the infection and prescribe the appropriate treatment. If the infection is prolonged or there are physical issues triggering the infection, it may be beneficial to seek specialized care from an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.
You can also help protect yourself from viral infection by practicing a healthy lifestyle. Eating well, exercising regularly and getting adequate rest can help keep your immune system strong and capable of warding off viruses. If you have been exposed to someone with a sinus infection, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly.
To understand what sinus infections are, it helps to understand a few basics about your sinuses. They are air-filled cavities in the front of part of your skull behind the cheeks, forehead and nose. While they help to lighten the weight of our heads, their main purpose is to filter air and produce a mucus that keeps the inside of the nasal cavity moist. That moisture protects our nasal passages from pollutants, dust and micro-organisms.
But that same protective feature can also make us vulnerable to infection. Occasionally those impurities filtered by the sinuses can cause irritation. That can make the sinuses swell and become blocked with fluid. Sometimes growths such as nasal polyps can also cause the fluid to stop draining properly. When the fluid backs up, an infection—bacterial or viral—can set in, which can result in sinusitis.
How can you tell if you might have a sinus infection? Here are some of the possible symptoms:
If you experience these symptoms, seek professional medical attention and diagnosis. Don’t suffer hoping the symptoms will go away on their own.
Dr. Nguyen is a national expert in ear, nose and throat (ENT) treatment and is responsible for perfecting innovative and effective treatments like balloon sinuplasty. For more than 15 years, he has been helping people seek relief from their nasal and sinus conditions. Let Houston Sinus and Allergy use the newest technology and our vast experience to customize a solution for your nose and sinuses.
You can reach us by calling (832) 237-7777, or fill out the form at the top of the page to book an assessment to start feeling better!