Sneezing: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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

REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/22/2017

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