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August 28, 2023

Sinus infections, also known as sinusitis, are a common health condition affecting millions of people worldwide. Sinusitis occurs when fluid builds up in the sinus cavities causing germs to grow. Once this happens, the sinus cavities become inflamed and infected, resulting in discomfort and a variety of unpleasant symptoms. One question that often comes up is whether sinus infections are contagious or not. In this blog, we answer that question, explore the contagiousness of sinus infections and provide you with information to help you understand and manage this health issue.

Unlike colds and the flu, sinus infections are not contagious; you cannot "catch" a sinus infection or pass it on to someone else. This is because sinus infections are caused by a virus or bacteria, not by an infectious agent that is passed from person to person. Viruses and bacteria can enter the body through the nose and mouth, and sinusitis can occur as a result of a cold or allergies. Therefore, it is not possible to catch a sinus infection from someone else. In some cases, however, it is possible for a person to pass the virus or bacteria to another person, but this would not result in a sinus infection.

Is Your Sinus Infection Viral or Bacterial?

woman holding head suffering from sinus pressure

The ''contagiousness'' of sinus infections depends on the underlying cause. Let's explore the two main causes of sinus infections.

Viral Sinus Infection: The majority of sinus infections are caused by viruses, and it is estimated that upwards of 98 percent of sinusitis cases are viral.1 Viral sinusitis often originates from an upper respiratory infection, such as the common cold. The virus triggers inflammation of the sinuses, leaving mucus trapped and unable to drain properly. A viral sinus infection usually resolves on its own.

Bacterial Sinus Infection: Bacterial sinus infections are less common than viral ones but can happen following a viral cold, flu or even allergies. It typically develops when the sinuses are already inflamed and congested, providing an environment for bacteria to grow. If this mucus is not cleared within 10 days, bacteria can begin to grow, and sinusitis can become worse. Antibiotics may be necessary to contain and clear the infection.

Understanding the differences between viral and bacterial sinus infections based on symptoms alone can be challenging, as they can overlap to some extent.

How to Prevent Sinus Infections

woman sick with blue blanket on shoulders holding a coffee mug

To determine whether your sinus infection is viral or bacterial, it is essential to consult a health care professional. They will check your symptoms, medical history and carry out any necessary tests. As said above, viral infections generally do not require antibiotics and bacterial sinus infections often require antibiotic treatment to eliminate the infection. Antibiotics are prescribed by health care professionals based on the specific bacteria involved and the severity of symptoms.

Whether a sinus infection is contagious or not, taking preventive measures is vital to protecting yourself and others. Here are some tips for preventing and managing sinus infections:

  1. Practice Good Hygiene: Wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.
  2. Avoid Close Contact: Limit your contact with individuals who have respiratory infections, especially during the early stages when they are most contagious. Avoid sharing utensils, towels or personal items with infected individuals.
  3. Boost Your Immune System: Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and managing stress. A strong immune system can help defend against infections.
  4. Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids helps thin the mucus and prevent congestion in the sinuses.
  5. Manage Allergens and Irritants: Dust, pollen, smoke and pet dander can trigger inflammation and can increase the chance of bacterial sinus infections.
  6. Use a Saline Nasal Spray or Wash: Saline nasal sprays and washes help to keep the sinuses moist and help to flush out any irritants or allergens that may be causing inflammation.

Sinus infections are a common and uncomfortable condition that can affect many people. The treatment of a sinus infection depends on the type and cause of the infection, and it is important to treat any underlying causes as well. If you think you may have a sinus infection, it is important to talk to a health care provider so that the proper treatment can be given. MedExpress offers sinus infection treatment in person and virtually where our caring medical team is ready to evaluate your condition and get you back to feeling better.


1 Clinical Infectious Diseases: Last updated 15 April 2012. Accessed June 6, 2023

2 CDC: Sinus Infection. Last update August 27, 2019. Accessed June 6, 2023.

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