According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, about 31 million Americans each year experience a sinus infection. This common condition is often caused by a virus. While the sinus infection itself may not be contagious, the virus causing the infection is.
What Is a Sinus Infection?
Inside your skull there are a series of connected hollow cavities known as your sinuses. Located within the cheeks, forehead and between the eyes, the cavities can become inflamed and swell up. This inflammation causes a blockage in the passage, where mucus can pool. Standing mucus can easily become infected.
Those with a structural blockage, asthma or allergies are at a greater risk of developing a sinus infection because their pathways are already narrow, restricting adequate mucus drainage. Smoking, acid reflux, having a weakened immune system or polyps in the nose can also increase your risk of developing a sinus infection.
The common cold, known as rhinovirus, is the culprit of most sinus infections. This is because the symptoms of a cold, specifically a runny nose and congestion, can cause mucus to pool and the lining of the sinus cavity to narrow.
As you have likely experienced, it is easy to catch a cold from someone else. Even if you cannot pass along the sinus infection, someone who contracts the same virus as you is at a higher risk of also developing a sinus infection.
Some sinus infections are caused by bacteria, which is not contagious. A pool of stagnant mucus is a breeding ground for bacteria.
Additional causes like allergies and nasal polyps are also not contagious.
Sinus Infection Symptoms
Common symptoms of a sinus infection include:
- Nasal drainage
- Soreness in the cheeks and jaw
- Under eye pressure
- Loss of smell
- Bad breath
How Are Sinus Infections Treated?
Most sinus infections will resolve on their own. Over-the-counter medications and home remedies are recommended to manage the symptoms. These include:
- Anti-inflammatory pain killers
- Nasal sprays
- Warm compress
- Sinus rinses
If your infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics will be prescribed.
To learn more about the signs and symptoms of a sinus infection or to schedule an appointment with an ENT doctor, contact SW Idaho ENT today.