Is Acute Sinusitis Contagious?

April 20, 2018

5 minutes

Reviewed by Michael Kaplan, MD

Is acute sinusitis contagious? Whether you’re fighting a sinus infection caused by weather changes, a stuffy nose, sinusitis caused by humidity, or a sinus pressure headache, chances are you’re going to be miserable — and the last thing you want to do is to share that misery with your loved ones. So it’s no surprise when patients want to know if their sinus infection is contagious or not, and if it is, what they should do about it.

That said, figuring out treatment and relief can be difficult. To avoid confusion, it’s important to know the symptoms of acute sinusitis, when to seek proper treatment, and what to do as you recover. Get answers to the question, “Is acute sinusitis contagious?” and learn how to get lasting relief from acute sinusitis here.

Do I have acute sinusitis?

If you’re wondering, “is acute sinusitis contagious?” you need to determine if you’re actually suffering from acute sinusitis, first. Spring can make it difficult to diagnose sinus-related ailments, since pollen and other allergens are especially abundant at that time of year.

Sinus infections and acute sinusitis typically cause some of these unique symptoms:

  • Drainage of thick mucus, usually yellowish or greenish in color
  • Nasal congestion that makes it difficult to breathe through your nose
  • Pain and swelling in the cheeks, eyes, nose, and/or forehead
  • Ear infections and earaches
  • Headache
  • Dental pain and jaw pain
  • Slight cough from mucus build-up

If you’re experiencing these symptoms for several days or more, you may have acute sinusitis.

Is acute sinusitis contagious?

Is acute sinusitis contagious? It’s a simple question, but like many simple questions, it has a complicated answer: it depends on the type of infection you have. We’ll explain these different types of infections for you now.

Viral sinus infections: contagious

Acute sinusitis caused by a virus or viral infection is often considered contagious. Interestingly, however, the sinusitis itself isn’t what’s causing you to be contagious. The culprit is, in fact, a virus, such as the one that causes the common cold. These viruses, such as rhinoviruses, influenza A, and influenza B, cause your body to respond with acute sinusitis, a symptom of a larger problem.

The symptoms of acute sinusitis caused by a viral sinus infection often last a week to ten days. During this time, it’s possible for the virus to spread from one person to another. The most common type of transmission occurs via hand-to-hand contact. Simple precautions such as hand washing can easily prevent the virus and acute sinusitis from spreading.

Upper respiratory infections: contagious

Is acute sinusitis contagious? It may not be at first, but left untreated acute sinusitis can become an upper respiratory infection, which can be highly contagious. Hand-to-hand contact, sneezing and coughing can quickly spread the infection.

An upper respiratory infection occurs when the mucus in your sinus cavities drains and collects in your esophagus. This drainage causes even more discomfort and further limits your ability to breathe.

Bacterial sinus infections: not contagious

When your nasal cavity becomes blocked and congested, it may become infected. Bacterial sinus infections are not generally regarded as contagious. However, sinusitis from a bacterial infection may last for a much longer time. (Further reading: How to treat severe sinus congestion.)

Can I still go to work with a sinus infection?

Nobody wants to be the person that gets the entire office sick (and nobody wants to sit by that person, either). While acute sinusitis may not always be contagious, we recommend that you seek medical attention if you suspect that you have it. Your doctor can help you determine the best course of action and treatment. They’ll also be able to help you with other sinusitis questions, such as, “Does sinusitis cause nausea?

How long does it take for acute sinusitis to go away?

Acute sinusitis should run its course in seven to ten days. Left untreated, recovery timeframes can up to two weeks or even longer. As mentioned previously, attempts to tough out your sinus infection may even lead to a contagious upper respiratory infection, strep throat, the flu or other chronic sinusitis complications. Long story short? It’s better to nip this illness in the bud.

What is the best acute sinusitis treatment?

Many patients try to treat their acute sinusitis symptoms with urgent care appointments, over-the-counter medicines, or other natural remedies. Unfortunately, these methods don’t always work, and the sinus infections often come back.

More and more patients are finding lasting sinusitis relief with balloon sinus dilation in Houston, or balloon sinuplasty for short. This in-office, non-invasive procedure can be completed in as few as 21 minutes.

Dr. Kaplan specializes in balloon sinuplasty, and has helped thousands of Houstonians like you find lasting relief. Leave behind your worries of contagious acute sinusitis. Schedule an appointment today to say goodbye to sinus infections.

Related Resources for Sinusitis


4101 Greenbriar Street, Suite 320

Houston, TX 77098