Is a sinus infection contagious ?

Sinusitis, commonly known as sinus infection, is an inflammation of tissue lining the sinuses. In normal individuals, sinuses are filled with air but when they get blocked and fluid seeps into them, they cause germ-build up including bacteria, viruses and fungi, which in turn, cause infection.

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Sinusitis caused from viral infections is contagious whereas those caused from bacteria are usually not. Common cold caused from viruses cause nasal congestion which over a time, turns into sinus infection. These infections are highly contagious and are easily transmitted to the person who comes in contact with them.

Generally bacterial sinusitis is a result of complications in viral upper respiratory infections. Bacteria present in nose and throat find their path all to the sinus passages causing inflammation in tissues lining sinuses and the nasal area. These bacteria can also be transmitted to other person but will not be infectious unless right conditions exist.

Risk factors

Nearly 37 million Americans report at least one episode of sinus every year. People with following conditions are at a greater risk of developing sinusitis:

·         Blocked drainage ducts

·         Nasal polyps

·         Swollen nasal mucous membrane

·         Conditions which expose individual to higher risk of infections like immune deficiencies and medicines to suppress immune system.

Sinusitis is mostly caused due to infections but it can also be caused from allergies and irritation to sinuses. Generally sinus infection occurs due to irritation to nasal passages caused from environmental pollens. Irritants like chemicals, over-the-counter medications nasal sprays or drops and illegal substances taken through the nose.

Sinus infection among children is mainly from allergies and illness from other children at schools, play time, bottle drinking, pacifiers and smoke in the environments. In adults, it  is caused due to infections and smoking.

Types of sinus infections

Sinusitis is of following types:

1.       Acute sinusitis: In this type, person develops cold-like symptoms like runny and stuffy nose, facial pain which lasts for almost 15 days. This infection goes away within a month.

2.       Sub acute sinusitis: In this sub acute sinus, the inflammation goes away in 1 to 2 months and so do the symptoms of sinus.

3.       Chronic sinusitis: In Chronic sinusitis the symptoms last for at least 2 months.

4.       Recurrent Sinusitis: As the name defines, when a person gets several sinusitis attacks in a year, it is categorized into recurrent sinus infection.

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Signs and symptoms of Sinusitis

The most common signs of sinus infection include headache, nasal stuffiness, sore throat, facial tenderness, pain and pressure and fever. Symptoms of acute and chronic sinusitis vary to some extent, each of which is listed below.

Acute sinus infection is diagnosed if the person has more than two symptoms along with thick yellow or green discharge from the nose. Symptoms of acute sinusitis are:

·         Stuffy nose

·         Facial pain

·         Nasal discharge

·         Cough and  congestion

·         Loss of smell

·         Fever

·         Dental pain

·         Fatigue

·         Bad breath

People having symptoms from more than 2 months are diagnosed with chronic sinusitis. Following are the symptoms of chronic sinus infection:

·         Facial congestion

·         Blocked nasal

·         Pus in nasal cavity

·         Discharge from the nose

·         Fever

·         Headache and fatigue

·         Dental pain and bad breath

Diagnosis

Sinusitis is diagnosed mostly by the physical examination of symptoms. To examine sinus, the doctor may feel and press the patient’s sinus for softness. Also the doctor may tap your teeth to check for paranasal sinus.

The tests for sinusitis are mucus culture, nasal endoscopy, allergy testing, X-ray and CT scan of sinuses.

 Treatment

Depending upon the severity of sinus infection, treatment may vary.

Treatment for acute sinusitis: treatments including decongestants such as Sudafed and steam inhalations are the most commonly given for acute sinus infection. Decongestant nasal drops and sprays are also effective in treating the symptoms. These medications should not be taken beyond their recommended usage i.e. up to 7 days or so because beyond this these medications tend to increase congestion. Antibiotics for acute sinusitis are given for 11 to 15 days. Within 15 days of treatment with antibiotics, the symptoms usually disappear.

Treatment for chronic sinusitis: Warm moist air is a great way of reducing sinus congestion. Use of saline nose drops and vaporizer or inhaling steam are the most methods of treating chronic sinus infection. In order to relieve nasal pain, warm compresses are used. Non-prescription decongestant nasal drops and sprays are widely used for removing symptoms. In some cases doctor may also prescribe oral steroids.

In a general sense, to manage sinus infection it is important to address factors that trigger your sinus. Know the allergic factor and immediately get off it. People suffering from chronic or recurrent sinus infection and for those whom medications do not seem to work might also be asked to have nasal surgery.

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