Sneezing / Sternutation

What is Sneezing?

Sneezing, also known as sternutation, is your body’s natural reflex to remove irritants from the nose or throat. It is an unexpected, involuntary, powerful and uncontrolled expulsion of the air from the respiratory system, which mostly occurs without a warning.

Sneezing usually occurs due to irritants such as cold air, dust, allergens, drugs, spices or even just a tickling; all these cause irritation to the nasal lining or the throat and trigger a sneeze attack.


Types of Sneezing

Though sneezing is very common, you may not have noticed that there are several types of sneezing. This classification, though interesting, does not have any clinical significance.

  • Trumpet Sneeze: In this type, people expel air almost completely through their mouths with a loud, "OOOH."
  • Big Bad Wolf Sneeze: In this type, people huff and puff before sneezing, like they could blow the whole house down.
  • Freeze Tag: Here the person’s whole face and body freeze may be for many seconds, as the sneeze builds up internally and then it suddenly explodes out, animating the entire individual.
  • Internal Sneeze: Nothing actually comes out but only an odd "ump" noise. It's surprising that the person’s eardrums don't explode.
  • Hand as Handkerchief: In this the people sneeze right into their hand. It is really annoying if they then offer their hand for a handshake.
  • The Tease: People sneeze to capture our attention and may attract an entire room as they go "aahhh ahhhh," then only a tiny little anticlimactic "achoo" at the end.
  • The Shout-it-Out Sneeze: This sneeze is so loud that it can be heard to a very long distance also.
  • The Coughing Sneeze: This is a chain of cough-like sounding sneezes very close together without a breath.
  • Cartoon Sneeze: This appears to be like a little kid sneezing. Also called as the dainty sneeze.
  • Spray Gun: This sneezer sneezes all out on others.
  • Continuous Sneezing: This sneezer keeps on sneezing right after the other without stopping.

What are the Causes of Sneezing?

When we inhale, we breathe in allergens, dust, viruses and bacteria present in the air. These irritants disturb the nasal lining and throat, which end signals to the brain to trigger a sneeze attack and expel out these substances.

Sneezing can be very annoying, but the fact is that it’s usually not a sign of any serious problem and there is nothing to worry about it.

Sneezing can be due to the following causes:

  • Hay fever: Hay feveris an allergic reaction to environmental allergens such as grass and hay pollens, dust mites, molds, occupational allergens and animal hair.
  • Allergic rhinitis: Allergic rhinitis is a chronic respiratory condition resulting in runny nose which is caused due to an allergic reaction. It occurs by inhaling in microscopic particles of certain allergens, airborne particles to which the person is sensitive or allergic. For example: pet allergy.
  • Reaction to stimulants that can provoke sneezing fits like dry air, cold air, dust, air pollution, irritant gases, sinusitis, spicy foods, particular medicines or stopping of certain medicines, pet fur, high emotions, powders, powerful odors from perfumes and spices, smog, stress, nasal polyps, infections like common cold or flu, trauma to the nose, and tickling around the nose.
Stimulants that Provoke Sneezing
  • Pregnancy: Hormonal changes during pregnancy and as well as during contraceptive use can cause sneezing in some women.

What are the Symptoms of Sneezing?

Sneezing itself is a symptom, and may be accompanied by other symptoms like:

  • Red, itchy or watery eyes and/or nose
  • Itchy mouth, throat and ears
  • Problems with smell sensation
  • Coughing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
Runny Stuffy Nose Sneezing Symptoms
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches

How do you Treat Sneezing?

If your sneezing is due to allergies or infection, then you can consult your physician to treat the cause and thereby stop it. Your physician will teach you how to identify the allergens, so that you can stay away from them in future. The best cure for sneezing is prevention by recognizing the triggering factors and staying away from them.

Medicines for sneezing are antihistamines, which can be used as prevention approximately 20 minutes or more before being exposed to an allergen, like before visiting a friend who has a dog. When antihistamines do not provide satisfactory relief, then the next recommended advice is to use a nasal steroid daily.

Nasal Steroid to Treat Sneezing

If you suffer from severe allergies, then your physician can counsel you for allergy shots. Allergy shots expose the body to allergens in small and controlled doses and protect from any allergic reactions in the future.

Tips to avoid exposure to allergens:

  • Dust mites can be avoided by using impenetrable covers on the beds and pillows.
  • Remove pets from home to avoid pet allergy
  • Make use of air filters to reduce pollen in the air
  • Select travel areas with low pollen counts
  • Wash linens in hot water to remove dust mites
  • Change furnace filters
  • If possible, you can use an air filtration machine to clean the air in your home.
  • Get your home checked for mold spores which may be responsible for your sneezing.
  • Cover your face when you move out into an allergic environment.
Cover Your Face When Moving Out

Here are some home remedies for sneezing you can try to get relief:

  • Peppermint oil: Add few drops of peppermint oil to boiling water. Cover your head and inhale the steam to clear your nasal passages.
  • Pepper: Mix half tablespoon of pepper powder in slightly warm water and drink it at-least two to three times a day. Gargling with pepper mixed in warm water also helps in removal of cold viruses and germs. Soups and salads mixed with black pepper can also be beneficial.
  • Fennel seeds: Boil a cup of water and mix two teaspoons of crushed fennel seeds and cover the pot. Keep the seeds for 10-15 minutes and then remove the liquid. Consume two cups of this tea everyday to decrease the sneezing fits.
  • Ginger: Take 1 to 2 teaspoons of ginger extract twice a day to stop continuous sneezing.
  • Cut a small piece of ginger root into thin and small slices, keep them in a cup of water and boil for some time. Mix some honey for taste and drink the tea before bedtime. This will serve as a sneeze guard at night.
  • Garlic: Make a fine paste of four to five garlic cloves and inhale its strong smell, which will clear the nasal passages and stop sneezing. It’s also useful to include garlic in your diet.
  • Fenugreek seeds: Put 2 to 3 teaspoons of fenugreek seeds in water and boil it. See until the content reduces to nearly half. Drain the mixture and consume it in small amounts. Drink this preparation 2- 3 times a day until you get relief from any allergy.
  • Oil of oregano: Add 2-3 drops of oil of oregano in daily diet and consume it every-day until your constant sneezing and sinus congestion recovers.
Home Remedies for Sneezing

Health Tips

  • Always use a handkerchief or cover your mouth while sneezing
  • Try to avoid allergens, which can cause allergy to you
  • Consult your physician if you have chronic sneezing
  • Avoid drugs which you are allergic to
  • It is advisable to use sneeze guards wherever possible

Latest Publications and Research on Sneezing / Sternutation