We all sneeze from time to time. It’s a natural response the body has to debris and irritants in the upper respiratory system, especially the nose. However, if you’re sneezing constantly and don’t know how to stop it, not only can it become distracting, it can begin to become genuinely painful. This is especially true if you’re dealing with other symptoms such as watery eyes and congestion.
Here, we’re going to look at some of the most common causes of chronic sneezing, as well as what you can do about it.
Dealing with irritants
In the vast majority of cases, sneezing is a response to a temporary irritant in the air. Something as simple as dust can get our nose acting up. From dust to black pepper to tobacco smoke, there are all kinds of one-off sneeze triggers that irritate the nerves of the nasal mucosa. This is what is known as non-allergic rhinitis since it’s not caused by an immune response in our nose, but simply by the irritation of the foreign particles in the nose.
However, if those sneezes are becoming much more frequent, then it could be that you need to be concerned about the air quality in your home. Frequent exposure to allergens can in fact lead to or exacerbate allergies, as well as other respiratory conditions such as asthma. You can improve your wellbeing at home by doing what you can to reduce the presence and lingering of dust.
Methods of improving your air quality can include taking the proper care of your air conditioner, such as changing its filter regularly and checking the air ducts. You should also work to keep your rugs and carpets clean and free of dust and dander. You can also use certain tools to improve air quality, such as by using humidifiers or dehumidifiers to control moisture levels and using certain indoor plants that can freshen the air.
Is it a symptom of infection?
Sneezing might be one of the first and most prevalent symptoms of certain respiratory tract infections, like the common cold. Many of these infections lead to the increased production of mucus, which then irritates the nerve endings that cause you to sneeze. This is simply the nose trying to clean itself of those irritants.
Unlike the case with allergies, sneezing when you have a cold or another viral infection isn’t caused by the production of histamines, so using an antihistamine is not very likely to do any good. There are other nasal sprays such as Nasal Atrovent that may be more help, instead.
It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between sneezing caused by a cold and by allergens. To tell the difference, you can compare the symptoms. For instance, if you have general aches and pains, a sore throat or fever, then it’s more likely to be a cold than to be allergies. If you have itchy eyes, it’s more likely to be your allergies playing up than anything else.
If you are dealing with a common cold or similar viral infection, then your best bet is to let it play out. Rest up, drink plenty of water, and take what over-the-counter medicine can help alleviate your symptoms. In most cases, the infection will be gone within a week. However, you should make an appointment to see your doctor if you are feeling very unwell, have symptoms of pneumonia (like blood in the phlegm you cough up), or have pre-existing heart, lung, kidney, or liver conditions that could make the infection have more potentially dangerous complications.
If you’re not dealing with an infection of some sort, or some other irritants in the air that you can clearly spot, then the most common cause of persistent sneezing is an allergy. People can be allergic to manners of irritants, including pollen (also known as hayfever), pet dander, dust, mold, and much more. An allergy is when the body’s immune system overreacts to certain irritants. In many cases, it causes a release of histamines in the nose, which causes a range of reactions, including sneezing, sore, sensitive eyes, congestion, and a runny nose.
If you think you’re safe because you’ve been sneezing in the winter, not the spring, then it’s important to know that not all allergies are seasonal. In fact, the majority are year-round allergies, meaning they can strike at any moment. If you suspect that you might have an allergy, it’s important to have it diagnosed by your doctor so that you can make the most effective measures to treat it.
In many cases, antihistamines, which can come in a range of forms, including pills to digest and nasal sprays, can help immediately treat the sneezing. As the name suggests, they counteract and neutralize the histamine that causes the sneezing in the first place. If you know what allergens are affecting you, then you can also do your best to avoid those allergens. For instance, if you’re suffering from hayfever, you can avoid pollen by using clean air filters and changing clothes when you come in from outside.
Other less common causes of sneezes
By looking at irritants, infections, and allergies, we have covered all of the most common causes of sneezes. These are also the only common causes of chronic bouts of sneezing. However, that doesn’t mean that they are the only causes, sneezing. There are also other circumstances that can cause you to sneeze, but they should never last too very long.
For instance, changes in your environment may trigger a sneeze. For one, extreme changes in temperature, such as going from a cold air-conditioned room to the hot outdoors can trigger a sneeze. If you step out into the direct sunlight, that might just do it, too, as sudden exposure to bright light can trigger sneezing, as well.
There is also the case where you might sneeze shortly after eating. Due to the fact that you’re sneezing in direct response to outside influence, you might think that this is an allergy, but that’s not the case. Gustatory rhinitis happens when the nasal nerves are overly sensitive to certain foods, but it doesn’t cause an allergic response, such as the release of histamine. Instead, it’s often caused by eating spicy or hot foods like hot peppers or wasabi. The capsaicin in these foods irritates the nerves in the nose, leading to sneezing, as well as a runny nose or nasal congestion in some cases. If you are sneezing after meals, then keep a note of which foods cause the sneezing and avoid them as best as you can from that point on.
If you have asthma, be careful
In most cases, sneezing is nothing to worry about. It won’t cause any pain or harm in the long run. If sneezing is the worst of your allergic reactions, for instance, then you can quite easily manage them. However, if you have asthma, you should be acutely aware of when you’re sneezing and what may be causing it.
Allergies and asthma go hand in hand, so if you have one, you should get tested for the other. Both allergies and respiratory conditions can affect your asthma, as well. Viral infections like the cold and the flu can affect your lungs, leading to inflammation alongside the narrowing of the airways. This, in turn, can trigger a dangerous asthma attack.
Similarly, having an abundance of irritants in the air, leading to low air quality, can trigger your asthma as well. For that reason, if you have asthma, you have to be extra careful to ensure that you manage the air quality in your home effectively. You also have to be more careful in avoiding and preventing infections, such as practicing proper personal hygiene and avoiding those who show any symptoms of infection. You also have to avoid allergens if you have allergic asthma. Your allergist or asthma specialist should be able to provide you with plenty of tips on how to manage your risks better and stay safe.
Don’t lose your nose over a sneeze
With the tips above, you should be able to narrow down the source of your sneezes and either get the treatment that you need or make use of remedies and tips that can help you put a stop to it yourself. If you’re not sneezing on a regular basis, then you shouldn’t be worried about the cause being anything serious.
You should only worry about seeing the doctor if you’re dealing with other symptoms such as coughing, congestion, watery eyes, or a persistent fever that won’t go away for a few days. Otherwise, be sure to give the home a clean, change your air filters, and see if some fresh air doesn’t help you get over the problem. If you’re dealing with a viral infection, then give it a little time to get through your system and be sure to hydrate and rest as you need to.
What tips do you have to stop frequent sneezing?