Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Sneezing (sternutation) is the act of expelling a sudden and uncontrollable burst of air through the nose and mouth. Sneezing can occur for a variety of reasons that have in common an irritation of the lining (mucous membranes) of the nose or throat. It is rarely a sign of a serious illness. Many environmental triggers can lead to sneezing, including air pollutants, pollen, dry air, and dust. Spicy foods can sometimes cause sneezing. Allergies, colds, and the flu are common causes of sneezing. Drug withdrawal, emotions, and certain medications are less common causes of sneezing. Some people may sneeze as a reaction to exposure to bright light (known as a photic sneeze reflex). Depending upon the reason for the sneezing, other symptoms can also occur, including
- burning, itchy, or watery eyes,
- nasal congestion or runny nose,
- sore throat,
- fever, and
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
Allergies Quiz: Symptoms & Home Remedies
What are the causes of allergies? This online quiz challenges your knowledge of common food and household allergens,...
Cold & Flu Quiz: Influenza vs. Common Cold
Aches? Pain? Fever? This Cold & Flu Quiz tests your knowledge on the difference between coming down with the common cold and...
Common Cold Quiz: Test Your Medical IQ
Take this quiz to learn the truth behind the infectious, contagious, uncomfortable disease known as the common cold. Test your...
Nasal Allergy Attack: Causes, Triggers, Treatments
What causes allergies? What are your allergy triggers? Discover how allergies work, why our bodies react to them, whether...
Nasal Irrigation: Natural Relief for Cold & Allergy Symptoms
Nasal irrigation can relieve sinus symptoms associated with colds & allergies. Learn how nasal irrigation can help unclog sinuses...
Out-of-Control Allergy Symptoms: Treatment Relief in Pictures
Learn 10 signs your allergies are out of control. See these surprising allergy symptoms and find out how to get relief for...
When Animal (Allergies) Attack: Pet Allergy Symptoms, Treatment
How do you control and relieve pet allergies? How do you prevent pet allergies? Learn dog and cat allergy symptoms, the cause of...
Causes of Sneezing
An allergy refers to a misguided reaction by our immune system in response to bodily contact with certain foreign substances. ...
Cold vs. Flu
Though the common cold and flu share many signs and symptoms, they are caused by different viruses. Signs and symptoms include...
Cold, Flu, Allergy Treatments
Before treating a cold, the flu, or allergies with over-the-counter (OTC) medications, it's important to know what's causing the...
The common cold (viral upper respiratory tract infection) is a contagious illness that may be caused by various viruses. Symptoms...
Influenza (flu) is a respiratory illness caused by a virus. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache,...
Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)
Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is an irritation of the nose caused by pollen and is associated with the following allergic...
How Long Is a Cold or Flu Contagious?
Viruses cause the common cold and the flu. Early symptoms and signs for a cold and the flu are similar, however, flu symptoms are...
Is Croup Contagious?
Croup is a viral infection that typically affects children and causes inflammation of the larynx and trachea. The cough...
Is Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Contagious?
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a contagious viral infection that causes symptoms such as decreased appetite, runny nose,...
Is Swine Flu (H1N1) Contagious?
Swine flu (H1N1) is a contagious virus that spreads when an infected individual expels virus-containing droplets into the air...
Pregnancy: Swine Flu and the H1N1 Vaccine
Pregnant and women who are breastfeeding are encouraged to receive the seasonal flu shot as well as the 2009 H1N1 influenza...
Novel H1N1 influenza A virus infection (swine flu) is an infection that generally is transferred from an infected pig to a human,...
Other Causes of Sneezing
- Air Pollutants
- Cold Air
- Drug Withdrawal
- Exposure to Bright Light
- Spicy Foods
- Strong Emotions
- Viral Infection
Examples of Medications for Sneezing
- cetirizine, Zyrtec, Zyrtec Allergy, Zyrtec Hives
- diphenhydramine, Benadryl
- fexofenadine and pseudoephedrine, Allegra-D
- fexofenadine, Allegra, Allegra Allergy, Allegra Hives, Children's Allegra, Mucinex Allergy
- loratadine and pseudoephedrine (Alavert Allergy & Sinus, Claritin-D, Claritin-D 24 hour)
- loratadine, Claritin, Claritin RediTabs, Alavert, Claritin Hives Relief, Children's Claritin
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter