are sinus infections contagious

Sinus infection, aka sinusitis, is a common yet annoying illness—runny or stuffed-up nose, headache, and breathlessness, especially during the flu and cold season. However, these infections are not at all serious and can be treated quickly. Nearly 30 million adults in the US suffer from sinusitis, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology

They are quite similar to the symptoms of colds, but are sinus infections contagious? Can they be spread as quickly as colds? A sinus infection occurs when your sinuses fill with fluid that allows germs to grow. It causes inflammation and swelling of the sinuses. The thing is, these infections are triggered by a variety of causes and can be hard to cure. 

But how can you tell if your sinus infection is contagious, and what steps should you take to avoid infecting other people who could be at risk? Read on as we answer the most asked question: “Are sinus infections contagious?” and a few prevention tips. 

What is Sinus Infection?

Before we discuss this in detail, let's cover some basics. A sinus infection, also known as sinusitis or rhinosinusitis, is caused by inflammation and mucus blockage in the air spaces around the nasal passages when fluid buildup in the sinus cavities causes inflammation and obstructs drainage. 

Although viruses are the most frequent cause of sinusitis, it can also be caused by bacteria, fungi, foreign bodies, or even allergens. Bacteria probably cause a sinus infection and are not communicable if they are the outcome of an upper respiratory illness and the symptoms last longer than ten days. 

However, not every sinus infection is the same. The duration and cause of your symptoms might determine the type of sinusitis you have. Infection can result from allergies, nasal polyps, or anything else that blocks the sinus cavity structurally because the blocked passageway makes it more difficult for mucus to discharge properly. These causes are not transmissible.

Types of Sinusitis

 There are different types of sinusitis, depending on their duration: 

  1. Acute sinusitis  (between 2-4 weeks)
  2. Subacute sinusitis (between 4 and 12 weeks)
  3. Chronic sinusitis (more than 12 weeks)
  4. Recurrent sinusitis (multiple times a year)

What are the Symptoms of Sinus Infections? 

Whether a virus causes a sinus infection or a bacteria, it can still trigger a number of uncomfortable symptoms that affect your nasal passages and sinus cavities. As said before, the symptoms of sinus infections are similar to those of the common cold. Typical symptoms of sinus infections are: 

  • Frequent cough
  • Bad Breath 
  • Runny and stuffy nose 
  • Severe headache 
  • Sore throat 
  • Chronic pain 
  • Facial pain or pressure 
  • Breathlessness 
  • Tenderness under eyes 
  • Toothache and jaw pain 
  • Post nasal drips

If you notice any of these symptoms, such as congestion, facial pain, or nasal discharge, and they get severe in 10 days, consult a doctor immediately. They may provide treatment accordingly. 

How Long Does Sinus Infections Last? 

Though some cases may clear up in as short as 3 to 6 days, the majority of acute sinus infections last seven to ten days. When sinus infections reoccur for longer than 12 weeks, they become chronic. 

Now, let's come back to the main question. 

Are Sinus Infections Contagious? 

This is where it gets a little confusing. Can you get it from someone else or pass it on? The answer is yes and No. Generally speaking, a sinus infection is not contagious, but the cause of your infection might be. Let's say your infection was brought on by a virus called Rhinovirus. You can pass on the Rhinovirus, but not necessarily the infection. After that, your symptoms will be transmissible for 5 to 7 days.  

In simple words, if a virus is the source of your illness, you can spread it to other people by close contact, kissing, coughing, or sneezing. That does not, however, imply that you spread the infection itself. 

i) Viral sinusitis: 

If your sinus infection was caused by a virus, such as the common cold, it is likely that it will transfer to someone else. This virus can then make them unwell, resulting in a sinus infection. Even if someone gets your cold, there's no certainty they'll get a sinus infection.

Common viruses that cause sinus infections are:

  • Rhinovirus
  • Adenovirus
  • Influenza virus
  • Parainfluenza virus

ii) Bacterial sinusitis: 

On the flip side, you are not contagious and cannot infect others if your sinusitis is brought on by bacteria, allergens, or a fungus.

Common bacteria that cause sinusitis are: 

  • Anaerobic bacteria 
  • Staphylococcus aureus 
  • Moraxella
  • Haemophilus influenzae 
  • Streptococcus pyogenes 

How Is A Sinus Infection Spread To Others?

Viral sinus infections can be contagious, either by respiratory droplets released into the air or through direct contact with contaminated objects. When you cough, sneeze, or even speak with others while you have a sinus infection, for example, you can release droplets that contain viruses that other people in the vicinity can inhale and get infected. 

The same goes for contaminating surfaces such as light switches, doorknobs, and handholds on public transportation; you can transmit it by touching your lips, eyes, or nose and transferring droplets to them before touching these surfaces.

How long are you contagious when you have a sinus infection?

Once the symptoms start, a person can spread the infection for roughly a week. When the symptoms initially appear, they are typically not contagious for the first day or two. To stop any new infections, one should stay away from close contact with others and wash their hands frequently during that period.

When To See A Doctor?

While most sinus infections can be managed at home with over-the-counter treatments and self-care measures, sometimes it can be serious. Seek medical attention if:

  • Symptoms persist for more than ten days.
  • You have a high fever lasting more than three days. (above 102°F or 38.8°C)
  • You experience severe facial pain or swelling.
  • Symptoms worsen after initial improvement.
  • problems seeing or double vision
  • You have a weakened immune system or other health conditions.

How to Treat Sinus Infection? 

Generally, you don’t require any treatment for sinus infections as they go away on their own with some OTC medicines. You might have guessed that antibiotics are the most common treatment for bacterial infections since they specifically target and kill bacteria in the body. 

However, antibiotics kill both bad and good bacteria alike. Due to their increased resistance, antibiotic-resistant bacteria may eventually become more difficult to treat infections. Because of this, it is important to be careful when taking antibiotics for a bacterial sinus infection. But, in the case of a viral sinus infection, antibiotics don’t work.  

Other treatments for sinus infection include;

  • OTC pain relievers 
  • Nasal or oral decongestant 
  • Warm compresses on the face
  • Nasal corticosteroids or Nasal steroid sprays 
  • Immunotherapy
  • Steam Inhalation
  • Prescription medication

Tips To Prevent The Spread Of A Sinus Infection 

The best way to avoid the spread of sinus infection is to stay home and away from people. If you suspect that you or someone in your family might have an infection, you need to be careful. Just to be on the safer side, here are some tips to keep in mind: 

  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly. 
  • Always wear a mask when around people. 
  • Stay at home (if infected) 
  • Stay hydrated. 
  • Maintain social distancing ( >6 feet)
  • Disinfect or sanitize your surroundings and commonly used stuff. 
  • Use a clean tissue to cover your mouth while sneezing or coughing.
  • Dispose of tissues properly.
  • Install a humidifier in your home or room. 
  • Stop sharing your personal stuff like towels, spoons, or anything. 
  • Maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.  


So, are sinus infections contagious? The short answer is no. Fortunately, sinus infection is not contagious, unlike the common cold and the flu. That means you can’t catch one or pass it on to another person. That is due to the fact that viruses or bacteria, rather than infectious agents that are spread from person to person, are what cause sinus infections. In other words, viral and bacterial sinus infections can be contagious, but the risk is low with proper hygiene. Fungal, allergic, and structural sinusitis are not contagious. That said, they are common and not at all serious. 

If you're experiencing severe symptoms, or the symptoms persist, talk to a healthcare professional or doctor. Don't rely on antibiotics since they don't work for viral infections.  Rather, follow your doctor's advice and practice basic self-care, such as using a nasal spray or taking OTC medication to recover faster.


1. Can you get sick from being around someone with a sinus infection?

Ans: No, Sinus infections are typically non-contagious. This means you can't get sick from being around someone with a sinus infection. 

2. How long are you contagious when you have a sinus infection?

Ans: You can be contagious for up to two weeks. The person who catches the virus is at the highest risk of developing a sinus infection. 

3. Do I need antibiotics for a sinus infection?

Ans: No, You do not need antibiotics for acute sinus infections. Most sinus infections usually get better on their own without antibiotics.

4. What is the timeline for a sinus infection?

Ans: The timeline for a sinus infection is between 7 to 10 days. In the case of chronic sinusitis, it lasts more than 12 weeks. 

5. How long do sinus infections last?

Ans: If you have an acute sinus infection, your symptoms will last for a week or ten days, but chronic sinusitis symptoms last 12 weeks or more. 

6. Are sinus infections contagious through kissing? 

Ans: No, kissing an infected person will not transmit the infection but will transmit the virus.

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Oliver Nelson

Oliver Nelson is a New York based Health Specialist Writer who completed his graduation from Syracuse University back in 2015. His writings were published in the top Healthcare brands in the United States.

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