According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunotherapy (ACAAI), about 31 million Americans experience at least one sinus infection each year. While sinus infections themselves are not contagious, the underlying viruses that causes them often are.
What Is a Sinus Infection?
The sinuses are a series of connected cavities in the skull and facial bones, located in the forehead, inside the cheekbones and behind the nose. The sinuses are normally filled with air, and their job is to help humidify the air we breathe and enhance our voices.
Sinus infections, also called sinusitis, occur when the sinus passages become swollen and inflamed. Inflammation causes obstructions in the drainage pathways, allowing mucus to pool and grow bacteria. The result is a sinus infection.
Risk factors for developing sinus infections include having:
- Structural blockages
- Smoking habit
- Acid reflux
- Weakened immune system
- Nasal polyps
What Else Causes Sinus Infections?
In most cases, sinus infections are caused by a virus like the rhinovirus – which also causes the common cold. Cold symptoms like runny nose and congestion can lead to mucus buildup in drainage pathways and increase risk for a sinus infection.
If you have a sinus infection caused by a cold or similar virus, the only illness you’re able to transmit is the virus, not the actual sinus infection. However, if you spread your virus, people who pick it up are at an increased risk for developing a sinus infection, too.
What Is the Likelihood of Getting Others Sick?
Duration of symptoms can help determine the cause of infection and whether or not it is contagious. A sinus infection caused by a viral infection lasts about seven to 10 days, meaning you’ll be contagious with the virus for up to two weeks.
If your symptoms last more than 10 days, or if they subside after a week then return again a few days later, you likely have a bacterial sinus infection that cannot be spread. However, bacterial sinus infections are rare – accounting for only about two percent of all sinus infections.
For more information about sinus infections or to schedule an appointment with an ENT physician, call the experts at Pinnacle ENT Associates today.