Sinusitis symptoms: Is sinusitis contagious?

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Some sinusitis symptoms overlap with coronavirus symptoms, so it’s important to know how the symptoms differ. Sinusitis normally isn’t serious and clears up on its own in a few weeks, but sometimes it can be chronic. Is sinusitis contagious? What are the symptoms?

Your sinuses are cavities in your skull that are lined with pink tissue and a layer of mucus.

The cavities are hollow and normally filled with air, but if they get blocked they will fill up with fluid, bacteria, viruses and even fungi.

This is what causes sinusitis and causes some painful symptoms.

Sinusitis differs depending on which sinuses are blocked: the frontal, maxillary, ethmoid, or sphenoid.

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Sinus symptoms

The first obvious symptom is pain, swelling and tenderness around your sinuses.

If your frontal sinuses are blocked, you’ll feel pain above your eyes and near your eyebrows.

If it’s the maxillary sinuses that are blocked, you’ll have an ache inside your cheekbones.

If you have pain behind the bridge of your nose and between the eyes, your ethmoid sinuses are probably blocked.

The sphenoid sinuses are hidden deeper behind the ethmoids, and if these are blocked you’ll feel a pain above the nose and behind the eyes.

Other symptoms include:

  • a blocked nose
  • a reduced sense of smell
  • green or yellow mucus from your nose
  • a sinus headache
  • a high temperature
  • toothache
  • bad breath

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Is sinusitis contagious?

Sinusitis might be contagious, but it depends on what caused it in the first place.

If your sinus infection is caused by bacteria or allergies, it isn’t contagious.

If it is caused by a virus, it is contagious and can be spread through droplets when you sneeze or cough.

However, another person catching the virus doesn’t mean their sinuses will become infected.

They may just develop the common cold instead.

How to treat sinusitis

Mild sinusitis is easy to treat at home without seeing a GP. You can treat it by:

  • getting plenty of rest
  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • taking painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (do not give aspirin to children under 16)
  • avoiding allergic triggers and not smoking
  • cleaning your nose with a saltwater solution to ease congestion

If your symptoms are severe and not improving after a week or you keep getting sinusitis, you need to contact your GP.

Your GP may recommend steroid nasal sprays or drops, antihistamines, or antibiotics.

These may need to be taken for a few months.

You might be referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist if symptoms persist.

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