The skull has many air-filled cavities inside the bones and these cavities are known as the sinus. When these sinuses are infected or irritated by some virus or bacteria, it is referred to as sinusitis. The areas of the skull that are referred to as the sinuses and are infected by the bacteria or viruses are cavities in the cheekbones, the bones behind the nose known as the sphenoid sinuses, the low centre of the forehead and the bones between the eyes.
This means that the sinus infection or sinusitis is an upper respiratory tract infection. It is caused when there is an interference of airflow into the sinuses and drainage of mucus out of the sinuses. The interference may be caused by a number of factors such as –
- Irritants like smoke or cigarette smoke
- Recreational substances which are snorted through the nose
- Paint and petrol fumes, insect sprays, perfumes, household chemicals
- Tumours, nasal polyps and other growths in the nose
- Lack of humidity in air or decrease in moisture level of the mucus, causing of thickening of the mucus
However, pneumonia is a lower respiratory tract infection. It might cause severe symptoms like sudden high fever, greenish or yellow or bloody mucus, chills, sharp and stabby chest pain, lips and fingernails turning blue etc. Pneumonia is much serious condition and needs to be dealt with by an expert immediately.
Can you Get Pneumonia from a Sinus Infection?
As already mentioned sinus infection is not a serious condition and is treated by its own within a few days and does not require intervention. The immune system of the body can fight this infection for every healthy individual.
If you ask if sinus infection can lead to pneumonia, it should be said that there is a possibility of this. However, the chances are very rare. In extreme cases, when sinus infection does spread to other body parts and does not get treated within a few days, the chances are high that the infection would spread in areas or organs near the sinus, such as the brain or the eyes.
It is very rare and unlikely that the sinus infection would spread to the lower respiratory tract, especially to the lungs. Though there has not been enough evidence of whether you can get pneumonia from sinus infection or not, there have been cases where both of these conditions have existed together. The link is not clear. However of course, there is always a possibility for the sinus infection to spread to the lower respiratory tract especially the lungs, even if the chances are rare.
Since the virus and bacteria that cause sinus infection or other cold and flu symptoms are the same that cause pneumonia, it is possible that you get pneumonia from untreated sinus infection.
The common bacteria that cause sinus infection are the Streptococcus pneumoniae. However, along with these bacteria, some other bacteria such as Haemophilus influenza and Staphylococcus aureus can also cause both sinus infections and pneumonia. If they are not removed or treated in advance, they might enter the lower respiratory tract and affect the lungs.
These bacteria and viruses swell the alveoli or air sacs at the end of the lungs. Therefore, the alveoli become swelled and filled with fluid. This condition is known as pneumonia.
Risk Factors for Getting Pneumonia from Sinus Infection
Those, who are at risk of getting pneumonia from sinus infection, are –
- Kids below the age of 2
- Aged people above the age of 65
- People who smoke
- Those, who are suffering from cystic fibrosis, emphysema or other COPD, heart disease and asthma
- Those, who have a weak immune system
- If you need machines to support breathing and are hospitalized.
All these risk factors apply both to sinus infection as well as pneumonia. However, it cannot be claimed that they are linked.
- WebMD. “Pneumonia: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and More.” https://www.webmd.com/lung/understanding-pneumonia-basics
- American Lung Association. “Pneumonia.” https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/pneumonia
- Pneumonia: Causes, Types, Risks, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Home Remedies, Prevention
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- Natural Ways to Clear Lungs of Pneumonia : Steam Therapy, Controlled Coughing, Postural Drainage, and More