Alternative names

A sneeze is a sudden, forceful, involuntary burst of air through the nose and mouth.

Sneezing, caused by irritation to the mucous membranes of the nose or throat, can be very bothersome but is generally not a sign of a serious problem.

Common Causes

  • allergy to pollen, mold, dander, dust (allergy or hay fever)  
  • virus infections (common cold, upper respiratory tract infections)  
  • opiate withdrawal  
  • corticosteroid inhalation

Home Care

Avoiding exposure to the offending allergen is the most effective means of controlling sneezing caused by allergic diseases. Some suggestions to minimize exposure include: removing pets from the home to avoid animal dander, changing furnace filters, using air filtration devices to minimize the concentration of airborne pollens, or traveling to areas with low pollen counts during the critical periods. Even changing residence to eliminate a mold spore problem may be necessary.

For sneezing not caused by an allergy, the problem will disappear when the underlying disorder is cured or treated.

Call your health care provider if

  • excessive and prolonged sneezing adversely affects lifestyle and home remedies are ineffective.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office
Your medical provider will obtain a medical history and do a physical examination.

Medical history questions documenting sneezing in detail may include:

  • time pattern       o During what time of year is sneezing the worst?       o When did the sneezing begin?       o How long do sneezing episodes last?  
  • aggravating factors       o Do you have a history of allergies?       o Have you been outdoors more than usual?  
  • relieving factors       o What have you done to try to relieve the sneezing?       o How well has it worked?  
  • other       o What other symptoms are also present?

The physical examination will include an examination of the upper respiratory tract. Diagnostic tests may include allergy testing.

Antihistamines are the first line of therapy for sneezing caused by allergies.

Nasal steroid sprays may be helpful in more chronic conditions.

Immunotherapy (often called hyposensitization), which consists of repeated subcutaneous injections of gradually increasing concentration of the allergen(s), may be considered for clearly documented seasonal diseases that cannot be managed with other drugs because of their side effects.

After seeing your health care provider:
If a diagnosis was made by your health care provider related to sneezing, you may want to note that diagnosis in your personal medical record.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Levon Ter-Markosyan, D.M.D.

Medical Encyclopedia

  A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | 0-9

All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.