Is Sinusitis Contagious?

Posted in Sinusitis

Sinusitis is a constant inflammation occurred in the sinuses. Sinuses are the ‘empty-caves’ in our skull that channeled directly to our nose. These cavities are connected to the nose through some very small openings. When a person has sinusitis infection, the sinuses and the nasal tract (opening) that connects to the nose become swollen. This inflammation results in a blockage that prevents the normal circulation from and into the sinuses. Meanwhile, the inflammation also stimulates nasal membranes to produce more and more mucus. As a result, the mucus secreted by the membranes will begin to pile up and build some kind of ‘mucus pool’, an excellent environment for viral and bacterial growth. The outbreak of these bacteria and viruses would eventually, (without any doubt) worsen the infection.

Sinusitis has become a very common disease in the world, as it often occurs after or during flu-period. We may have heard some cases where sinusitis spreads through public facility such as public swimming pool. Due to these cases, many people assume that sinusitis is a contagious disease. But is sinusitis really contagious? This question has brought up many arguments and controversies. Some answered yes while others said no. For me, the answer is both yes and no, depends on what causes the sinusitis.

There are many factors that can cause sinus infections. The most common factor is microbiological (virus, bacteria, and fungi) factor. In normal condition, sinuses are covered by tiny hair called cilia. Cilia help to maintain the sinus passages clear. They move synchronously, creating a ‘wave-like’ movement and sweep the mucus out of the sinuses. Some types of viruses, however, bear the capability to paralyze, even disrupt the cilia. When this happens, mucus will be accumulated in the sinus and the nasal passage will be clogged. Fungi and bacteria can also block the nasal tract and infect mucus membranes, resulting in swollen sinuses. For me, this type of sinusitis is contagious. I know that most people would say that sinusitis is not a contagious disease. They said the microbes that cause sinus infection might be contagious but the disease itself is not contagious. But if that’s the case, what makes HIV-AIDS contagious while microbial-caused-sinusitis not? HIV-AIDS is contagious because the HIV-virus can spread and infect other person who made contact with the sufferer. Similar to HIV-virus, the microbes that cause sinusitis can also spread and infect anyone near the sufferer. With this consideration, I would say that sinusitis caused by microbial infection is contagious.

Sinusitis can also occur through allergenic reactions. Some people may be extra-sensitive to certain allergens such as air-borne of food-borne substances. Dust, pet dander, histamine, and pollutants can stimulate sinus inflammation. Unlike microbes, these allergens are not infectious. They present everywhere and we inhale or eat them every time. Yet, these substances don’t always cause sinusitis to anyone around.

Other factor that can promote sinusitis is the extreme weather. Extreme changes of the weather can irritate the sinuses and make them swell. In addition, cold air can also facilitate flu, which will lead to excess mucus-production that clogs the sinuses.

Unlike the first type of sinusitis I mentioned above, the other types of sinusitis (caused by either allergens or unfriendly-weather) is not categorized as ‘contagious’. This is because both the allergens and extreme-weather don’t work like microbes. They don’t spread from one person to another. To most people, these factors don’t trigger sinusitis. Certain allergens can only affect those who are allergic to them while extreme weather usually gives impact on those whose immune systems are weakened. So now, is sinusitis contagious? I would say yes if it is caused by microbes. But on the other hand, if the cause is either allergens or unfriendly-weather, then I’d say the sinusitis is not contagious.

More Articles