Viral Sinusitis And Bacterial Sinusitis
Viral sinusitis is the most common type of sinusitis. It is usually caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold, and typically lasts for between seven and ten days. If the condition lasts longer than ten days, or there is a worsening of symptoms after five to seven days, the sinusitis is more likely caused by bacteria than a virus.
How Is Sinus Infection Spread
Sinus infections caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi can be contagious.
These germs are transmitted by droplets in the air after a person who is sick coughs or sneezes. They can also be passed by touching or shaking hands with a person who is sick and has not properly washed their hands, or by touching a surface a sick person has touched, such as a doorknob, table, faucet handle, etc.
Various Causes Various Answers
Many of us often think whether sinus infection is contagious. Well, some of them can be transmitted and a number of different causes of sinus infection take place. Some of the principal causes of sinus infections are:
Viruses are transmitted from one person to the next, so you can pass the bug to you if someone is suffering from a viral sinus infection. But the same symptoms may not be present. Viruses cause the common cold and these viruses may lead to the development of sinus infection. Viruses can be contagious only for a couple of days, or a week or more. Even before you have any symptoms of sickness, you may have a virus.
If there is a blocked sinus with mucus, bacterial infections can grow. Such infections usually last longer. Infections of the bacterial sinus cannot spread from one person to the other. The Infectious Diseases Society of America notes that sinus infection is likely to come from bacteria while a simple test can instantly find outwhether the infection is bacterial or viral.
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**Disclaimer: The information on this page is not intended to be a doctor’s advice, nor does it create any form of patient-doctor relationship.
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Duration Of Sinus Infection
Acute sinusitis causes inflammation and symptoms that often develop quickly and last 7 to 10 days if caused by a viral infection. But the illness can last for up to 4 weeks if its caused by a bacterial infection.
Chronic sinusitis lasts for 12 weeks or more. This inflammation can continue for months or years more, and people often describe them as a never-ending cold.
Sinusitis may also be classified as:
- Subacute, in which symptoms last for more than 4 weeks but less than 12 weeks
- Recurrent acute, in which there are at least four acute sinus infection episodes within one year
- Acute exacerbation of chronic rhinosinusitis, in which symptoms worsen in a person with chronic sinusitis
But having symptoms of sinusitis doesnt always mean that you have a sinus infection.
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When Should I Call The Doctor
- a cold that lasts for more than 710 days without improvement
- a cold that seems to be getting worse after 7 days of symptoms
- symptoms of allergies that don’t clear with the usual allergy medicine
Also call if your child shows any other signs of worsening sinusitis, such as:
- pain or pressure in the cheeks or around the eyes
- swelling around the eye
How To Avoid Spreading Sinus Infections
Sinusitis can easily develop as a result of a cold or virus, so spreading these illnesses puts other people at risk of developing a sinus infection. Viruses are spread by breathing in small droplets of water in the air, and also by touching surfaces where these bacteria are lingering. A sinus infection caused by a viral infection lasts about seven to 10 days, meaning you can be contagious with the virus for up to two weeks.
You can avoid spreading a cold by wearing a mask while you are sick, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and washing your hands frequently with soap and hot water.
What Can You Do To Ease Sinus Infection Symptoms
Sinus infections can make you feel really miserable. In addition to feeling like your head is trapped in a vice, you could develop a fever, sore throat and even tooth pain. Thankfully, there are several things you can do at home to ease symptoms.
- Quiet pain Take an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen for discomfort and pain.
- Try a nasal spray Use an over-the-counter nasal spray such as fluticasone to reduce swelling and open nasal and sinus passages.
- Opt for an oral med Take guaifenesin to help thin and drain mucus.
- Get some rest Make sure youre getting enough sleep and take it easy during the day.
- Hydrate Drink at least 64 oz. of water and/or other clear non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic liquids throughout the day.
- Grab a warm compress Ease pain and swelling by laying a warm washcloth over your sinuses.
- Rinse your nasal passages Use a neti pot to flush your sinuses with a saline solution.
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How Do You Get A Sinus Infection
A sinus infection can develop when there is swelling in the sinus cavities. If the sinuses become too swollen, they can narrow and become obstructedmaking it difficult for mucus to drain. When mucus builds and backs up within sinus passages, it can become infected and voilayou get a sinus infection. The most common cause of a sinus infection is a viral cold.
Like any virus, the virus that causes the common cold is highly contagious. However, thankfully, every cold does not develop into a sinus infection. So while viral sinus infections are caused by cold viruses which are indeed very contagious, the sinus infections that result, are not contagious. If you get a viral sinus infection, it should resolve on its own within two weeks.
You may be thinking, wait I thought the only way to clear up a sinus infection was by taking antibiotics. Nope, not true. Viral sinus infections wont respond to antibiotics. And taking antibiotics when you dont need to can be dangerous and contribute to antibiotic resistance. However, in the case where your sinus infection was spurred by a bacterial infection, antibiotics are exactly what you need to fight the infection.
When To See A Doctor About A Sinus Infection
On the other hand, a secondary acute bacterial infection may develop, so its advised that you see a doctor if your symptoms last more than 10 days or if your symptoms initially improve but then worsen again within the first 7 days.
See a doctor immediately if you experience:
- A persistent fever higher than 102 degrees F
- Changes in vision, including double vision
- Symptoms that are not relieved with over-the-counter medicines
- Multiple infections within the past year
- Sudden, severe pain in the face or head
There are several types of sinus infections, which are classified by duration.
They include the following:
- Acute infections that last for about 4 or less weeks
- Subacute infections that last for about 4 12 weeks
- Chronic infections that last for longer than 12 weeks
- Recurrent infections that occur several times a year
Additionally, each type of sinus infection has several potential causes, including bacteria, viruses, or fungi.
Some cases of sinusitis occur with only swelling and inflammation due to blockages in the nasal passages or deformities in the sinus cavities. Allergies and chronic exposure to pollutants can also lead to sinus infections.
Sinus infections often feel like a bad cold. It may be difficult for people to distinguish between a cold and a sinus infection. Some of the most common symptoms resemble a cold. These include:
- pressure in the sinus cavities
Sinus infections caused by bacteria have a few additional symptoms. These symptoms include:
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What To Do For Chronic Sinusitis
If youre suffering from chronic sinusitis or you are getting frequent sinus infections you should see your doctor, says Dr. Sindwani.
Your doctor will swab your nose to collect mucus. Culturing it in a laboratory will reveal which type of bacteria is causing the infection so the right antibiotic can be prescribed.
Treat early sinus infection symptoms with rest, hydration and over-the-counter sprays and decongestants. But dont look for an antibiotic unless your illness extends beyond a week, he says. Then check in with your doctor for a prescription and let him or her know if your condition worsens.
Using The Right Water During Saline Rinses
When using saline nasal rinses, tap water should always be boiled and then allowed to cool to ensure cleanliness distilled water or premixed solutions could also be used instead of regular tap water.
Other home remedies for sinus infections include:
- Drinking fluids: Drinking lots of fluids helps loosen and thin mucus. Avoid beverages that are caffeinated and alcoholic beverages that can dehydrate the body, which could thicken mucus.
- Breathing steam: Warm water is best . You can breathe in steam from either a bowl or shower.
- Humidifying the air: Use a cool air vaporizer or humidifier,particularly at night while sleeping.
- Avoiding environmental substances: Avoid tobacco smoke and chlorinated water that can dry up the mucus membranes and exacerbate symptoms.
- Implementing treatment measures: At the first sign of infection, use antihistamines and employ regular nasal rinses.
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How Can You Keep From Spreading A Sinus Infection
Try incorporating these common sense practices to keep from spreading your sinus infection.
- Wash your hands! This seems basic, but it always bears repeating. Handwashing really is the best way to prevent the spread of germs! Be sure to wash with soap and water before handling food, after using the restroom, and especially after blowing your nose or touching your face.
- Cover your cough! Feeling a tickle in your throat? Turn away from those around you and cough into the crook of your elbow. This prevents germs from getting all over your hands while still stopping droplets from spreading.
- Stay home when possible. Even though it takes pretty close contact to spread a sinus infection, staying home and getting rest can help you get back to your normal routine as soon as possible.
- Get better faster. Try using home remedies like over-the-counter medications or a neti pot to help speed up your recovery. In fact, one study in children showed that nasal irrigation was almost as helpful as antibiotics in clearing up sinus infections!
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Contagious Causes Of Sinus Infections
Viral Sinus Infections
Dr. Varghese says, If the underlying cause for the sinus infection is from a virus, it can be contagious.
The common cold can cause the nasal passages to produce more mucus than usual. In some cases, the sinuses swell and mucus gets trapped in the cavities, creating the perfect conditions for a sinus infection to develop.
If you have a viral sinus infection, you can spread the virus that caused the infection. But that doesnt necessarily mean other people will develop a sinus infection even if the virus causes them to get sick with a cold. Every person is different, so while you may have developed a sinus infection caused by the virus, another person may only become mildly ill.
So how long are you contagious with a viral sinus infection? When you have a virus that causes a sinus infection, you can be contagious for several days before you develop sinusitis. Most people will be contagious for approximately 10-14 days.
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Who Is At Risk For Sinus Infections
Anyone can get a sinus infection, but some people are more at risk than others. Children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are most likely to get sick from a sinus infection. People who smoke cigarettes or have allergies are also more prone to developing sinus infections because their bodies cant fight off the bacteria or viruses as well.
Will A Sinus Infection Go Away On Its Own
When you have a sinus infection, you want to do everything you can to make it go away. In cases where a sinus infection is viral, the best treatment is to follow the self-care tips outlined above and let your bodys immune system do its job.
The good news is that most sinus infections are viral and will go away on their own. It can, however, take time for your body to fight off the infection. In most cases, you should start to feel better within a week or two.
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Other Questions Related To Sinus Infection
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Those With Underlying Medical Conditions May Be At Greater Risk Of Developing A Sinus Infection
Sinus infections are fairly common, affecting more than 30 million Americans each year. However, people with certain underlying medical conditions may experience more frequent and severe cases of sinusitis and chronic sinusitis.
- Sinus infections can occur as a result of viral infections, such as the cold or flu. Therefore, people with weakened or compromised immune systems may be at a greater risk for developing acute sinusitis.
- Sinus infections commonly arise due to complications with seasonal allergies, asthma, or other physical issues that can cause blockages in the nose or sinuses. People with these conditions are more likely to develop chronic sinusitis.
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Which Is Worse Bacterial Or Viral Sinus Infection
If your sinus infection lasts for about a week, itâs usually due to a virus. Bacterial sinus infections, on the other hand, can persist for some time. They usually last for 10 days or longer. While viral infections usually start to get better after a few days, bacterial infections tend to get worse over time.
The Symptoms Of A Sinus Infection
People often assume that its possible to tell the difference between a viral and bacterial sinus infection based on the type of symptoms they experience. Unfortunately, thats not the case. Usually, the symptoms of a sinus infection are the same or very similar whether its caused by bacteria or a virus.
Common symptoms of either a viral or bacterial sinus infection include green or yellow mucous/discharge, bad breath, headache, and fever.
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Why Do Sinus Infections Occur
Your sinuses are hollow chambers inside your cheeks, forehead and between the eyes. The lining of these passages can swell, causing a buildup of mucus.
Many develop a sinus infection after catching a cold, known as the rhinovirus. A runny nose and congestion, common cold symptoms, can cause inflammation and prevent the sinuses from draining properly.
If you are experiencing a viral sinus infection, you cant spread the infection to others, but you can pass along the virus. Someone who catches the virus from you is then at a higher risk of also developing a sinus infection. You may be contagious for up to two weeks.
Sinus infections can also be caused by bacteria. When mucus pools, it becomes an ideal spot for bacteria to grow.
Allergies, nasal polyps and anything that causes a structural blockage of the sinus cavity can cause an infection, as the narrowed pathway makes it harder for mucus to adequately drain. None of these causes are contagious.
What Causes Sinus Infections
The most common cause of sinusitis are viral respiratory infections that lead to swelling and irritation of the sinuses, the most frequent being the common cold.
Other ways to contract a sinus infection include:
- Nasal polyps, or small growths in the lining of the nose, that may be asymptomatic but block the normal sinus pathways
- Any structural change to the nasal cavity, such as a deviated septum or history of sinus or nose surgery
- Hay fever causing swelling to the noses lining, usually during common allergy seasons
While sinus infections are common and most adults will experience one over their lifetimes, there are outside influences that can lead to more frequent cases of sinusitis.
Risk factors for an increased chance of a sinus infection include:
- Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
- A broken nose or other structural problems within the sinuses
- A weak immune system, or starting the cycle of a new drug that weakens the immune system
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When Are Sinus Infections Contagious
Suppose your sinus infection was caused by a virus . 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.