Sinus Infections: Are They Contagious

Are You A Candidate For Sinus Infection?

Infected or not, you may have a sinus infection. If so, it’s probably nothing serious. But if your nose feels like its stuffed with cotton wool, then there could be something seriously wrong with it. There are many reasons why you might develop a sinus infection; however, they’re all fairly common and treatable conditions.

What Is A Sinus Infection?

A sinus infection is a collection of fluid in your nasal passages. These fluids are usually caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or other microorganisms. The most common cause of these infections is allergies. Other possible causes include prolonged exposure to certain substances (such as dust mites), environmental factors such as pollution and even smoking tobacco.

How Do I Know If My Nose Is Stuffed With Cotton Wool?

If you feel like your nose is filled with cotton wool, then chances are it is. Your nose will likely feel tight and sore when you breathe in. Also, you’ll notice that whenever you cough or sneeze, the air passes out of your nostrils rather than into them. This means that the mucous membranes around your lungs aren’t working properly either. Your body is letting you know that something is wrong.

How Do I Know If My Sinuses Are Infected?

When your sinuses become infected, it can be very easy to confuse the signs and symptoms with other conditions. While most people are already familiar with the common cold, many mistake a cold for a sinus infection. Usually, a sinus infection will cause more facial pain and pressure than a regular cold. This is because the sinuses are located near the bones surrounding your eyes and nose. Even the smallest infection can cause a great deal of pain in these areas.

How Do I Know If I’ve Got Allergies?

If your allergies are caused by airborne substances (such as dust, dander or pet fur), then you’ll know pretty quickly. Your nose will begin to run and you may even cough or sneeze. The mucus that you clear out of your nostrils will be thick and opaque. This is because it contains small microscopic particles. If your allergies are caused by certain foods or other irritants (such as smoke), then you’ll experience the same mucus symptoms.

How Does A Sinus Infection Spread To Other Parts Of My Body?

If left untreated, a sinus infection can spread throughout your body via the bloodstream and lodge itself in other parts of your body. The most common place for this to occur is in your fingers and toes. This is why a sinus infection can be difficult to treat. Allergies and other airborne conditions worsen the problem because they encourage the infection to spread even faster.

How Do I Know If I Have A Viral Sinus Infection?

A viral sinus infection is a condition in which your body has become infected with a virus. Viruses are microscopic organisms that can only be spread from one person to another (unlike bacterial infections, which can pass from person to person and also from the environment). The most common causes of viral sinus infection are the common cold and flu. These symptoms are very similar to bacterial sinus infection and it can be hard to tell them apart. However, if your sinus infection is caused by a virus, then antibiotics will not help you. Instead, you’ll need to let your body fight off the infection naturally.

How Do I Know If My Sinus Infection Is Caused By A Bacteria?

Bacterial sinus infections are much more common than viral sinus infections. In fact, they are so common that antibiotics are one of the first treatments a doctor will recommend. The symptoms of a bacterial infection are very similar to the symptoms of a viral infection. However, there are some telltale signs that will help you determine whether or not you have a bacterial infection.

One symptom is that no matter how long your illness lasts, it seems to follow a set routine. It always starts on day one with milder symptoms. These include feeling like you have a bit of a cold and maybe some sniffles.

On day two, the symptoms are a bit worse. You may start to develop a headache and your nose may begin to run. On day three, you feel like you’re ready to get out of bed because you’re so sick of being in it all day. On day four, the symptoms seem to disappear almost completely. However, by day five, your symptoms return even stronger than they were on day two. If this routine continues into week two, then you may very well have a bacterial sinus infection.

Another symptom of a bacterial sinus infection is very similar to that of the common cold (but much more serious because it lasts longer). Normally, the mucus that you cough up when you have a cold is clear or yellowish. If your mucus is green or yellow, then you probably have a bacterial infection (and should see a doctor immediately).

What Are The Different Types Of Sinus Infections?

There are two different types of sinus infections that you should be aware of: acute and chronic. An acute sinus infection is the common cold of the sinus world. This is a short-term condition that lasts less than three months. If your symptoms persist for longer than three months, then you probably have a chronic sinus infection. Both types can be bacterial or viral in nature.

What Happens If I Ignore My Sinus Infection?

If you ignore a sinus infection and let it persist, then you could end up with some very serious and long-lasting problems. Let’s go over some of these possible conditions below.

Chronic Sinusitis

A chronic sinus infection is one that lasts longer than three months. After one year, this condition is known as chronic sinusitis. This condition can be quite serious and may require surgical treatment in order to resolve it.

Sinus Thrombosis

This is a condition in which a blood clot forms in one of your sinuses (usually the ones behind your eyes). The symptoms of sinus thrombosis are similar to those of a common sinus infection. If you experience any new or worsening headaches triggered by your sinusitis, see a doctor immediately.

Sinus thrombosis can lead to serious vision problems if left untreated.

Sinusitis Allergies

If you suffer from allergies, your chances of getting a sinus infection are much higher. Allergies cause your body to become inflamed and when you have inflammation in your body, bad things start to happen.

Swelling of the mucous membrane that lines your sinuses is one of those bad things. Thus, if you are prone to allergies, you should take some steps to minimize your exposure to the things that trigger your symptoms.

Sinusitis and Smog

If you live in or near a large city, smog is almost certainly a problem for you. In these types of environments, the air is often very toxic to begin with. If you add a sinus infection on top of that, you could have a serious problem on your hands.

Just walking outside on a day when the smog index is high may give you a sinus infection.

Sinusitis and Swimming

If you’re not careful, swimming can actually make your symptoms worse. The chlorine in most public pools is very toxic to your mucous membrane lining. If you swim right before bed or right when you wake up, it could irritate your membranes lining your sinuses.

This irritation can lead to a mild infection, which leads us to our next point.

Sinusitis and Flying

If you fly a lot for business or just for fun, this can lead to more sinus infections for you. This is because every time you fly, your ears automatically start to clog up (this is a natural defense mechanism that protects your ear drums from the drastic changes in altitude). If your ears are already clogged up, your sinuses do not have a way to drain properly when you fly.

Ultimately, this leads to more trapped mucus and congestion.

How Can I Heal My Sinus Infection?

Now that we’ve talked about some of the things that can lead to sinus infections, let’s talk about how to get rid of an infection once you have one. There are many steps you can take to get rid of your infection and help prevent future ones from happening. Let’s go over some of these steps below.

Sinusitis and Antibiotics

If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic for your sinus infection, be sure to take all of the medication so that you can completely get rid of the infection. Also, don’t take antibiotics unless you have been diagnosed by a doctor. Many antibiotics are not effective against a sinus infection and unless you take the right one, your body’s immune system will still have to fight the infection on its own.

Sinusitis and Decongestants

Decongestants such as Sudafed and Afrin are great at helping to relieve your stuffy nose, but they can also dry out your mucous membranes making you more susceptible to getting another infection in the near future. Be careful when using these medications and use only as directed.

Sinusitis and Neti Pots

Using a neti pot can certainly help to clear out your nasal passage but if you have a severe infection, it may not be enough. In addition, if you have allergies, the neti pot won’t do much good as it only treats one problem (congestion) and not the other (allergies). If you do use a neti pot, be sure to follow the directions and use only distilled water.

Tap water can contain lots of different types of bacteria that can enter your nasal passage and make your infection worse.

Sinusitis and Home Remedies

As we’ve discussed in this article, there are many things in our everyday lives that can lead to a sinus infection or cause one to persist. The following home remedies can help to get rid of your infection as well as help you to control the allergens in your home.

Allergy Shots: Allergy shots are very expensive and have many side effects. They also take a very long time to start working (6 months to a year). However, if you have allergies, they are well worth the money and time.

Allergy shots re-train your immune system by giving it a small dose of what is causing you to have an allergic reaction. With time, your body learns to stop having a reaction to the allergen and as a result you become less and less allergic to it.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an important nutrient for the immune system. Since a weak immune system can lead to sinus infections, taking extra Vitamin C can help prevent these infections from occurring. Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any type of supplement.

Steam: Taking a hot shower and putting Vicks Vapo-Rub under your nostrils is a great way to relieve your stuffy nose and can help you get some much needed rest at night.

Neti Pot: Using a neti pot can help you clear your nasal passage and provide much needed relief. Be sure to follow the directions that come with your neti pot and use only distilled water. Tap water contains lots of bacteria that you really don’t want swirling around inside your nasal passage.

Humidifier: Using a humidifier in your bedroom at night on its lowest setting can increase the humidity in your room. Higher humidity levels help to thin out the mucus in your nasal passage making it easier for you to breathe.

Chin Straps: Although chin straps may not treat the actual infection, they can be used to prevent you from sleeping with your mouth open. Many people sleep with their mouth open and because the throat and the nose are connected, this can cause the infection in the nose to travel to the throat and vice versa. Using a chin strap will force you to keep your mouth closed while you sleep and could help prevent the spread of infection.

Sinusitis and Surgery

Although surgery for sinusitis isn’t performed very often any more, sometimes it may be necessary. The two most common types of surgery are called “Micro-Endoscopic Sinus Surgery” (MESS) and “Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery” (FESS). Both of these surgeries are very complex and can only be performed by a select few doctors who have been specially trained in this procedure.

In MESS, the surgeon makes several small holes in your cheek and then inserts a small camera called a “naso-video-microscope” into your nostrils. This allows the surgeon to see the interior of your nose and then cut out the infected areas.

In FESS, the surgeon makes several small cuts in your nostrils and then uses a tiny video camera to look inside your nose. Once the surgeon has seen enough, he or she can then perform whatever operations are needed.

Both of these procedures carry many risks and complications such as bleeding, infection, and damage to the surrounding tissue. Because of this, anyone who plans on having this type of surgery should seriously weigh the pros and cons with their doctor.

Sources & references used in this article:

Contagious equine metritis by PJ Timoney – Comparative immunology, microbiology and infectious …, 1996 – Elsevier

Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis in wild songbirds: the spread of a new contagious disease in a mobile host population. by JR Fischer, DE Stallknecht, P Luttrell… – Emerging infectious …, 1997 –

Diagnosis and treatment of four stallions, carriers of the contagious metritis organism—case report by MA Kristula, BI Smith – Theriogenology, 2004 – Elsevier