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Yes, bacterial infections are contagious and for this reason it’s important to protect yourself against the most common ways these infections are spread among people. Now when we talk about something being contagious, we need to take a long look at yawning. I’m sure you have all noticed that it’s quite common that when you yawn and someone’s in your immediate vicinity, they often yawn too. You can ‘catch’ a cold and the biological workings of that are understandable, but how is it that you can ‘catch’ a yawn?
We’ll still discuss are bacterial infections contagious here, but I’ve often wondered how it is that people tend to yawn together. You have too? Excellent, and here’s why.
I Yawn, You Yawn
There is no concrete physiological explanation why people tend to yawn when others near them are yawning. Some anthropologists believe that it is an innate human behaviour that is done with the aim of synchronizing sleep-wake schedules as part of circadian rhythm. This would have been much more important during prehistoric times as compared to today, as groups of both men and women needed to work together with greater unity, cohesiveness, and focus than they do today.
Others insist that contagious yawning is connected to humans’ predisposition towards having empathy to each other. Now I don’t know if that’s something along the lines of ‘I empathize with you being sleepy, so I’ll pretend I’m sleepy too’, but if it is then that’s some DEEP psyche stuff that’s hard to understand.
Pretty Serious Sometimes
What’s not hard to understand is that anyone would rather yawn than having a bacterial infection of any sort. Some bacterial infections, like strep throat or an ear infection, can range from nuisances to genuine short-term unpleasantness, but there’s also the other and more dire end of the spectrum. We’re talking about necrotizing fasciitis, or ‘flesh-eating disease’ as it’s very ominously referred to. It represents the most serious and potentially-fatal of bacterial skin infections.
Fortunately, it’s very rare and usually comes with preceding symptoms that will lead the person to seek medical attention before it gets to the advanced stages (which often require amputation). The point we’re making here is that a bacterial infection is something that should be avoided at all costs, even if most of them don’t pose major risks.
The best thing you can do is if you see anything that’s very out of the ordinary going out with your skin, and especially if there is pain or other strange and abnormal sensations along with it, then you should see a physician as soon as possible. The same way the answer to are bacterial infections contagious is yes, we can say the same for whether or not most of them can be overcome with a course of antibiotics.
Common ones that work well for knocking out even the worst bugs include Keflex (Cephalexin) and Cipro (Ciprofloxacin).
Bacterial Sinus Infections
The next question then becomes – are bacterial sinus infections contagious too? Different answer here fortunately. Bacterial sinus infections are NOT contagious as the bacteria cannot be transmitted from one person to the other. However, sinus infections are also commonly followed by the person developing a cold, and those ARE contagious.
The most common bacterial sinus infection is sinusitis, and it’s caused by a bacteria by the name of streptococcus pneumoniae. The antibiotics highlighted above can take on this task too, and Keflex in particular is best suited for bacterial sinus infections. But be aware that these infections are NOT something you can think will pass on their own. If left untreated there is a risk of developing other health problems. The worst of those is meningitis if the infection travels up the sinus cavity and into the brain.
Veering off to our co-topic again, we know that yawns are ‘contagious’ and so what more do we as humans know about yawning? Most of us don’t pay much attention to it or think about it anything further than see it as ‘something you do when you’re sleepy.’ Turns out there’s a lot more to it.
Are bacterial infections contagious? Yes. Is there medical evidence suggesting one of the primary biological functions of yawning is to cool the brain? Also yes.
When a human yawns, the powerful stretching of the jaw increases blood flow to the neck, face, and head. The deep intake of breath that comes with it forces a downward flow spinal fluid and blood from the brain. Then, cool air breathed into the mouth cools these fluids. Some say this is like a radiator, removing overheated blood from the brain while adding cooler blood from the lungs and extremities.
People who believe this theory will insist that the likelihood of someone yawning contagiously in response to someone else doing it are more likely to do in cooler weather. Definitely something to think about the next time you catch yourself yawning in tandem with someone else.
How Long are Bacterial Infections Contagious?
Bacterial infections will vary with how long they’re able to be contagious based on the type of the bacteria causing the infection. Outside of that it largely depends on how effectively you’ve treated the infection with an antibiotic like Vancocin or another of the many designed for treating bacterial infections, and which infection you’re treating. Again, this can vary widely so it’s best to discuss this with a physician if you’d like a more definitive answer about when you can consider yourself to not be contagious anymore.
So, are bacterial infections contagious? Yes, most are. And are yawns contagious? Not as definitive an answer there, but based on personal experience I’d certainly say they are too.