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In the United States, about 31 million people suffer from sinus infections. About 90 to 98 percent of these infections are caused by viruses.
Technically, a sinus infection (sinusitis) is not an infection, but it refers to the inflammation or swelling of the tissues that line the sinuses. Such swelling or inflammation occurs when the sinuses get blocked and filled with fluid (mucus). Most commonly, viral infections such as the common cold blocks the sinuses and causes them to swell up. Sinus infection may also result from secondary bacterial infections, and fungal infections.

Can You Pass A Sinus Infection To Others?

If your sinusitis is the result of a viral infection such as the common cold (which in most cases, it is), then you may pass the cold virus to someone else. Now, the virus is likely to cause cold in the other person, but not necessarily a sinus infection.

What About A Bacterial Sinusitis?

A bacterial sinusitis is usually a complication that arises from a viral sinusitis. Bacteria are normally present in the nose and throat. A viral infection inflames the sinuses and causes them to become clogged with mucus, creating a moist environment. So, the bacteria take advantage of this situation, and start to overgrow thus leading to a bacterial infection in the sinuses.

According to experts, in most people, a sinus infection begins as a viral infection but turns into a bacterial infection after 7-10 days. Since bacteria that cause the infection, stay in the sinuses, it is unlikely for someone to come in contact with them. Even if the bacteria are transmitted from person to person, unless they find the right conditions, they cannot cause an infection.

Sinus Infections Caused by Other Factors

Some cases of sinus infections may be triggered by nasal tumors, a deviated nasal septum, allergies, irritants, or conditions like cystic fibrosis and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Even such types of sinus infections are not contagious at all.

Common Symptoms
  • Mucus dripping down the throat behind the nose
  • Sore throat
  • Constant pain around the inner corner of one or both the eyes or below one side of the nose
  • Throbbing pain, usually in the forehead
  • Thick nasal discharge (yellow, and has a bad odor)
  • Headaches; usually worsen while coughing, straining the eyes, bending or lying on the back
  • Pain across the cheekbone, jaw, the teeth; moving the jaw worsens such pain
  • The cheekbone may appear swollen, tender or red
  • Fever (depending on the cause)
  • Ear pain
  • Foul breath
Treatment
As most cases of sinus infections are caused by viruses, no treatment is required. Once the virus gets to run its course, the condition resolves on its own. However, a few self-care measures may be taken to ease the symptoms and reduce discomfort.

Get ample rest, and keep yourself hydrated by taking plenty of hot liquids. Doing this also helps relieve headache, and promote sinus drainage.

Breathe in hot steam or hold a towel (soaked in warm water, and wrung) against your face. This will help open up the clogged sinuses, and relieve sinus pressure and headache. Even taking hot showers help loosen mucus. You can also use a cool mist vaporizer.

Avoid smoking, and exposure to other pollutants.

Cold temperatures may worsen the symptoms of a sinus infection. So, keep yourself warm and stay indoors.

Nasal sprays and decongestants can be used as they help reduce the swelling of the sinuses. Over-the-counter pain relievers come in handy for dealing with headaches and pain in the affected area.

If you have a sore throat, then suck on ice chips or lozenges.

Your doctor may treat you with antibiotics if you have a bacterial sinus infection that is severe, persistent (stays for more than 10 days) or recurring. Otherwise, the above self-care measures are good enough to manage the condition.

If the above symptoms of sinusitis persist for more than a week or if they get worse, then this warrants a medical visit. Symptoms such as a persistent fever, swelling around the eyes, breathing difficulty, or changes in vision, must also be reported to a doctor at the earliest.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.