Winter is a season for sinusitis and sinus infections, and that often means lost productivity, as workers either call in sick or try to power through. It's difficult to be at your best when you're suffering from the symptoms of a sinus infection, and your productivity will almost always take a hit as a result. But is it necessary to call out of work, for the sake of your own health as well as that of others?
What is a Sinus Infection?
A sinus infection is an infection in the sino-nasal passages where the sinuses end up being obstructed or backed up. Common symptoms include drainage, pressure, and fatigue. Discharge from the nose becomes thicker, with a yellow or green coloration. Discharge can also be somewhat bloody.
Sometimes a sinus infection can be difficult to discern from a cold. But, if your cold symptoms last longer than 7 to 10 days it's likely you’ve developed a sinus infection.
Are Sinus Infections Contagious?
Sinus infections are not contagious. However, the virus that precedes them (such as the common cold) often can be. Anything that causes swelling in the nose, such as a virus or allergies, can end up causing a sinus infection. But the bacteria of a sinus infection is not itself contagious.
Home Treatments for Sinus Infections
Because allergies can be a common source of sinus infections, it's a good practice to manage them as best you can. Over-the-counter allergy remedies, nasal steroids, and sinus rinses can all help mitigate your allergy symptoms.
For the common cold, try to ward off the possibility of a sinus infection with decongestants and nasal sprays such as applying Afrin for three days. You might also try neti-pot sinus rinses, or other over-the-counter medicines like Advil Cold and Sinus, Mucinex (to thin the mucus in the nose) or generic antihistamines. These treatments may prevent the chance your cold will develop into a sinus infection.
Is It Okay to Go to Work with a Sinus Infection?
In many cases, it's a judgment call on whether or not you should work with a sinus infection. You are likely to be fatigued and less productive, and it may be wiser to stay home, get some rest, and work from home if you can. Rest and hydration will allow you to get back to baseline faster, so you can return to work at full strength.
The only time you should definitely not go to work with a sinus infection is if you also have a fever. This may be a sign of something more contagious, as it isn't very common with a sinus infection alone. If you're suffering from a fever, do yourself (and your co-workers) a favor, and stay home to recover.
When To See a Doctor About Your Sinus Infection
If you're dealing with a sinus infection, it's generally best to wait a week and treat your symptoms with over-the-counter remedies before seeing a doctor. Why? In general, medical guidelines advise waiting to make sure symptoms like these aren't a sign of a viral infection to avoid the chance of antibiotic resistance. If symptoms persist after a week, then the condition may be bacterial and a doctor can often prescribe antibiotics.
However, in the case of additional symptoms, such as a persistent headache or bad fever, you should see a doctor right away, as this might be a sign of something more serious (such as the flu).