Sneezing Attacks

Common Causes of Sneezing Attacks

Have you been plagued with sneezing attacks that you simply can’t explain? Biologically speaking, the nose is responsible for filtering out bits of airborne particles as you breathe so that they don’t go to the lungs. A sneeze is simply a forceful expulsion of air through the nose as a result of irritation in the mucous membranes in the nose and throat. That doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but the reality of it is that sneezing attacks which last for several seconds or even longer can be both embarrassing and even painful. The best way to get your sneezes under control is to narrow down the possible causes. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common causes of sneezing.



Allergies, also called allergic rhinitis and hay fever, are well-known cause of sneezing. Some of us have sensitive immune systems which can be triggered by things that are carried through the air, such as pollen from flowers, trees, and grass, mold, and dust. When the immune system detects the allergen—or the substance that triggers the immune response—the body begins producing a substance called histamine. Histamine causes mucous production, swelling, itchiness, and even a rash. Sometimes determining what exactly the allergen is can be difficult because of cross-reactivity. Take for example someone who is allergic to a particular type of weed or grass pollen. Because of this, they may also find symptoms cropping up when they handle potatoes or root vegetables. Although they are not allergic to the vegetables directly, they can experience allergic symptoms as a result of them being contaminated with the pollen that they are allergic to.

The process of trial and elimination is a great place to start, but it can be a lengthy process until the correct allergen is found. Even then, it is possible to suffer from multiple allergens. Another way to determine if one is experiencing allergic rhinitis is through a professional evaluation. This begins with a physical examination as well as questions about what symptoms are experienced, when they first started, and how often they occur. A skin test may then be performed to confirm the suspected allergen. A blood test may be necessary if there is difficulty detecting the allergen with the common skin test method. Treatment for allergic rhinitis includes antihistamine tablets or nasal sprays. One is encouraged to avoid the allergen trigger whenever possible or to keep antihistamine products nearby when exposure is expected.


A bacterial or viral infection is another possible cause behind sneezing attacks. The common cold and flu can lead to irritation in the mucous membranes, triggering the production of mucous. This excess mucous can tease the nerves located in the nose which results in a sneeze. This can result in frequent bouts of sneezing that occur over a week-long period—or however long the cold or flu bug lasts. Treatments for this depend on what type of infection is present. Bacterial infections can usually be treated with the use of antibiotics over a ten day period, while viral infections must simply be allowed to run their course. Over-the-counter cold and flu medications can be of some help to relieve symptoms.


Sneezing can also be a result of irritation, or non-allergic rhinitis. An example of this would be overly strong cologne or other odors, pepper or other powdery spices, and cigarette smoke. Unfortunately, the everyday antihistamine will not work in this case. Typical over-the-counter nasal spray may be effective, but in most cases the best remedy is to remove oneself from the irritating substance and take in some fresh air. If further irritation occurs, it may be necessary to see a doctor to ensure that the nasal membranes have not sustained damage, particularly is a physical substance is at work, such as powder.