How long am i contagious with a sinus infection

No one wants to deal with the pain and frustration of a sinus infection (sinusitis) or sinus infection symptoms. But are sinus infections contagious? Can you catch one from your coworker or family member?

The answer depends upon whether or not your sinus infection is viral or bacterial. We’ll take a look at sinus infections, sinus infection symptoms and how to get rid of a sinus infection.

Are Sinus Infections Contagious?

Before we can delve into the answer, let’s take a look at the differences between a viral and a bacterial infection.

A viral sinus infection itself is not contagious, but you can pass the virus along to others. That person would then be at risk for developing a cold or sinus infection symptoms.

A bacterial sinus infection is caused by bacteria, and it is not contagious. However, it’s important to note that most sinus infections are caused by a virus. This is why antibiotics should be used only when it is clear the cause is bacterial.

Sinus infections can also be caused by fungi, and these are not contagious.

How Can I Tell If I Have a Bacterial or Viral Sinus Infection?

The key is its duration. You can’t tell from sinus infection symptoms alone.

Viral infections tend to improve after five-to-seven days. However, bacterial infections can linger for seven-to-ten days or even longer. Bacterial infections also tend to get worse over time.

How to Get Rid of a Sinus Infection

Most sinus infections are viral, and as a result, have to “run their course.” Most of these can be easily managed by home care, which includes getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids, taking over-the-counter medication and using saline solutions to rinse the sinuses.

If you have questions about how to best manage your sinus infection or sinus infection symptoms, contact our internal medicine physicians in Cary who will be glad to assist you.

If you find that you have continual, chronic infections, you should consider allergy testing and treatment. Often, this allows us to address the underlying problem and dramatically reduce your chances of developing a sinus infection.

What Are the Symptoms of a Sinus Infection?

Sinus infection symptoms may vary slightly from person to person, but the main indicators of sinusitis include:

  • Postnasal drainage
  • Yellow or green mucus from a runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Pain or tenderness around the eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead
  • Facial pain that gets worse after bending over
  • Headaches
  • Toothaches
  • Pressure in the ears
  • Problems with your sense of smell
  • Fever (in certain cases)

Important Note About Sinus Infection Symptoms and COVID-19

Cary Medical Group screens patients with respiratory symptoms on a case-by-case basis to determine if COVID-19 testing, a telehealth visit or in-house visit is most appropriate. Cary Medical Group offers COVID-19 PCR testing in our convenient drive-through clinic.

Cary Medical Group Provides Assistance for Those With Chronic Sinus Infection Symptoms

In most cases, a sinus infection will easily go away on its own after home care and over-the-counter medication. However, if you find that sinus infections are increasingly becoming a part of your life, then you should contact our internal medicine doctors in Cary to explore the benefits of allergy testing or immunotherapy.

See why we have been the provider of choice for the Cary and Triangle area for more than 25 years. We welcome the opportunity to be your medical home. Schedule an appointment with us today.

For more than 25 years, Cary Medical Group has served as the Triangle area’s premier internal medicine provider. We tailor our treatments to provide the finest personalized health care available for each stage of your adult life. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

Sinus infections affect tens of millions of people every year in the United States, according to the CDC. And no matter your age, you’re susceptible to developing one. The widespread nature of these infections and the frequency of their recurrence may have you wondering, “are sinus infections contagious?” The answer to that question is a little more complicated than a simple yes or no. It all depends on what caused the infection.

According to Dr. Jason Varghese, “The actual sinus infection is not contagious but depending on the underlying cause, that may be contagious.”

You cannot transmit the sinus infection itself to anyone else. You can, however, transmit the underlying cause of the infection, depending on what it is. Some of the things that cause sinusitis are contagious while others are not. If you have a sinus infection and are worried you might spread illness to other people, you must visit a doctor to find out what caused your sinusitis and whether it’s contagious.

Read on to learn how to determine whether you have a sinus infection, what makes the infection contagious, how long sinus infections can last, and when you should see a doctor for treatment.

What Is a Sinus Infection?

A sinus infection, also referred to as sinusitis, is a condition that causes inflammation of the tissue lining the sinuses. When you develop this type of nasal infection, your sinuses may fill with fluid or become blocked, making it difficult to breathe through your nose.

Dr. Jason Varghese, a family medicine doctor with Healthcare Associates of Texas, describes sinus infections as, “an inflammation of the sinuses that has multiple causes.”

Sinus infections can be acute, which means they last only a few days, or they may become chronic, in which case they can last for several weeks. Acute infections are far more common than chronic sinusitis.

Dr. Varghese says the most common symptoms of sinus infections he sees are, “sinus pressure and fullness in the face that is usually tender to touch.”

It can be difficult to differentiate between a common cold, allergy symptoms, and sinusitis because each of these conditions causes similar symptoms. That said, some of the most common symptoms you may notice if you’re suffering from a sinus infection include:

  • Stuffy nose
    How long am i contagious with a sinus infection
  • Runny nose
  • Post-nasal drip (mucus and fluid dripping from your nose down your throat)
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Persistent cough
  • Sore throat
  • Bad breath

What Causes Sinus Infections and are they contagious?

“The most common cause I see for a sinus infection is from a viral infection. Other common causes include bacterial infections and allergies” Dr. Varghese explains.

A virus, bacteria, or fungus can cause a sinus infection. Generally, acute sinus infections stem from viral colds, while chronic sinusitis typically results from a bacterial infection, nasal growths, or allergies. Sinus infections can develop from many different causes. The cause of a sinus infection can be contagious, depending on what it is.

Contagious Causes of Sinus Infections

Viral Sinus Infections

Dr. Varghese says, “If the underlying cause for the sinus infection is from a virus, it can be contagious.”

The common cold can cause the nasal passages to produce more mucus than usual. In some cases, the sinuses swell and mucus gets trapped in the cavities, creating the perfect conditions for a sinus infection to develop.

If you have a viral sinus infection, you can spread the virus that caused the infection. But that doesn’t necessarily mean other people will develop a sinus infection even if the virus causes them to get sick with a cold. Every person is different, so while you may have developed a sinus infection caused by the virus, another person may only become mildly ill.

So how long are you contagious with a viral sinus infection? When you have a virus that causes a sinus infection, you can be contagious for several days before you develop sinusitis. Most people will be contagious for approximately 10-14 days.

Non-Contagious Causes of Sinus Infections


Seasonal allergies trigger the body to release histamines, which naturally cause swelling of the nasal passages. As the inside of the nose becomes inflamed, that swelling can impede airflow and lead to nasal blockages. As a result, fluid may accumulate in the sinuses and cause an infection.

How long am i contagious with a sinus infection
Nasal Polyps

These small, noncancerous growths inside the nose can interfere with airflow through the nasal passages. If these growths interfere with proper airflow over a prolonged period or cause swelling inside the nose, a sinus infection may develop.

Tumors inside the nose.

Like nasal polyps, nasal tumors can interfere with proper airflow through the nasal passages. When this happens, swelling and fluid buildup can occur, which may cause a sinus infection.

Deviated septum.

If the wall that separates the nostrils isn’t centered inside the nose, that’s called a deviated septum. When this condition is present, one of the nasal passageways is smaller than the other, which can cause airflow problems. A very narrow nasal passage may not be able to eliminate bacteria or dry out properly, which can trigger recurring sinus infections.

Bacterial Sinus Infections

Bacterial sinus infections are not contagious. Some experts assert that bacteria can be passed between people who come into close contact with one another. However, the conditions inside a person’s nasal passages must be optimal for an infection to develop.

Are Sinus Infections Contagious Through Kissing?

“I wouldn’t recommend kissing someone when you have a sinus infection. The actual sinus infection is not contagious but the underlying cause may be contagious,” Dr. Varghese explains.

You can easily transfer the virus, bacteria, or fungi that caused your sinusitis to another person when you come into such close contact with them. Although that person may not develop a sinus infection, they can certainly become ill.

How Long Can a Sinus Infection Last if Not Treated?

If you don’t see a doctor for treatment, how long will it take a sinus infection to go away?

“Depending on which type of sinus infection you have, a sinus infection can last anywhere from 10 days to 3 months. It’s best to see a medical provider for treatment if you can.,” Dr. Varghese says.

Most acute sinus infections last about 10 days, while chronic sinusitis lasts longer than 12 weeks.

Viral sinus infections typically improve after about seven to 10 days, but mild symptoms may last longer than that. Bacterial sinusitis, on the other hand, may actually get worse after the seven-day mark and can persist without improvement for 10 days to a few weeks.

How Long Does a Sinus Infection Last Without Antibiotics?

If you have a bacterial sinus infection, you can take antibiotics to speed up your healing time. However, you cannot take antibiotics to improve viral sinusitis because antimicrobial medications do not kill viruses.

If your immune system is healthy and you choose not to take antibiotics for bacterial sinusitis, you can still fight off the infection. Most people find their symptoms improve significantly within about two to three weeks.

How to Treat a Sinus Infection

When you develop a sinus infection, you can do several things on your own to ease your symptoms. Dr. Varghese recommends, “over-the-counter pain relievers, decongestants, and nasal sprays. Humidifiers can also help.”

How long am i contagious with a sinus infection

Here are some other at-home remedies and commercially available medications to help you feel better:

  • Over-the-counter antihistamines. Seasonal allergy medications can help reduce sinus inflammation if you’re suffering from allergy-induced sinusitis.
  • Warm compresses. Applying a warm compress to your face can help ease discomfort and open your nasal passages so you can breathe easier.
  • Sinus rinses. Flushing your nose with water from a neti pot can help remove excess mucus from your sinuses, which will help you feel less congested.

When to See a Doctor for a Sinus Infection

“I recommend seeing a doctor if your symptoms don’t improve within 10 days,” says Dr. Varghese.

While you can certainly treat a sinus infection at home, sinusitis that lasts longer than a couple of weeks may be the result of an underlying condition that may need medical treatment.

Contact your doctor right away if you think you have a sinus infection and develop any of the following symptoms:

Am I contagious if I have a sinus infection?

Are sinus infections contagious? “Because many times sinus infections are caused by viruses, they can be contagious like other infections, such as colds,” Melinda said. “If you have a sinus infection, it's important to use good hygiene skills.

When are you no longer contagious after a sinus infection?

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.

Should I stay home if I have a sinus infection?

Sinus infections can be viral or bacterial. “Either way, it's best to stay home,” Wigmore says. Viral sinus infections are often contagious. If you have had symptoms longer than one week, or if you have severe facial pain, teeth/jaw pain, or fever, you may have a bacterial infection and should consult your doctor.

Are sinus infections contagious while on antibiotics?

Bacteria. When they're trapped in the sinus passages, bacteria or fungi can also give rise to sinus infections. However, because they form inside the nose and not as a result of an outside infection, bacterial sinus infections are not contagious.