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Sneezing is the body’s reaction to tiny particles which enter the nostrils. Sneezing is considered a reflex, a bodily action for which a person has no control. Sneezing can occur either on occasion, or can be a condition that a person can not rid themselves of without medication. Clinically, a sneeze is called either a sternutation or sternutatory reflex. Sneezes contribute to the spread of viruses, germs, and disease, carrying with them whatever ailments and contaminations of the individual through the air and onto objects.


There are no specific symptoms of a sneeze, although most people report a tingly sensation either in the nose or throat just prior to a sneeze. A sneeze exits the body at approximately 100 to 155 miles per hour. Sneezing can be symptomatic of other conditions such as allergies or various other neurological disorders. There have been reported cases of continuous sneezing that completely impacts daily living, rather than an occasional annoyance as sneezing is for most people. These cases are considered medical mysteries.


Sneezing is caused by irritation. Dust particles, whether the individual is allergic to them or not, can cause sneezing, as well as allergens such as mold and dander, syndromes such as photogenic sneezing, or any over stimulation of the nerves within the nasal passages.
Image: Sneezing


People who have been previously diagnosed with allergies, viral infections, narcotic withdrawal, corticosteroid inhalation, or chronic exposure to nasal irritants are more likely to experience sneezing. While a great deal of these risk factors can not be controlled, they can be assisted to a reasonable degree through the use of medication.

While a sneeze itself does not require diagnosis, any form of chronic sneezing may mean the onset or existence of an underlying condition. Sneezing is a symptom, not a disease. If other cold symptoms exist, the likely explanation is that the individual is suffering from a cold. However, some allergies can mimic cold symptoms. A fit of sneezing that is associated with cold symptoms that lasts more than a few days should be evaluated by an allergist. Chronic sneezing may be indicative of allergies. Allergies are the most common symptom of allergies, and allergies are the most common cause of chronic sneezing.

With the exception of chronic “machine gun” sneezing, which means the individual started to sneeze and continuously sneezes for weeks on end, there really aren’t complications associated with sneezing. Long term chronic, “machine gun” sneezing is very rare, and can complicate daily living by interfering with the individual’s ability to function normally. This type of sneezing can become very painful and can interfere with the individual’s ability to sleep, eat, or even speak.


In most cases, sneezing requires no form of treatment. However, if the sneezing is a symptom of an allergy, the allergies should be treated. Allergies are often tested for via a skin test, where common allergies are scratched into the skin and the allergens which the body reacts to indicate an allergic reaction. Most allergies can be treated either with allergy shots, allergy medication, or the removal of the allergen from the environment if at all possible. Antihistamines are often the most common form of treating sneezing that is allergy related or has an unspecified cause. Nasal Steroid sprays can be used to help control the spamsing that induces a sneeze in the first place. It is common to immunotherapy or hypo sensitization can often help allergy sufferers as well.

Removing the allergen may or may not be simple. If the sneezing is caused by dust or smoke, cleaning more frequently or removing the smoke from the environment is a quick and easy fix. Dander allergies may require removal of the pet that causes the dander reaction from the premises. Changing furnace filters more often and the use of air filtration systems may help to improve the air quality in the home. Some geographical locations have a higher pollen count than others and this can have a significant affect on allergy related sneezing.

The more specifically an allergist or physician can narrow down the causative factors the more likely the sufferer is to find relief from the sneezing but also perhaps the ability to live without chronic medication and the side effects associated with the medication.

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