Contributed by- Dr. Snehal Singh
With the cold weather upon us, episodes of cold and allergies are quite common. Sneezing is a part and parcel of cold and allergies and is not considered as an alarm for health problem. Infact, for most of us sneezing is quite normal. But, is it really normal? Or, does sneezing mean more than what meets the eye?
A sneeze can be either slimy, wet or itchy and mean a lot of things. Infact, there are rather surprising facts related with sneezing. Let us read to know all there is to know about sneezes.
Why Do We Sneeze?
Sneezing is the process through which the nose removes the foreign irritants. We are constantly exposed to foreign matter that can cause irritation and disturb the inner lining of the nose. Some of the common irritants that we come across everyday are dust, smoke, pollen, dander, fibre, mold, perfume and other sprays. In short, sneeze is a natural reflex which is nose clearing itself off some irritant.
What Does Frequent Sneezing Mean?
Usually, we never pay much attention to sneezing but frequent sneezing can tell a few things about the health status. Occasional sneezing may be due to unexpected exposure to some foreign irritant. Whereas, frequent sneezing may be due to allergies, low immunity, infection or an inflammatory condition that the body is fighting with, but in some cases, the exact cause may not be known.
Some people are sensitive to certain aromas and may experience frequent sneezing while cooking, which is due to irritated nasal membranes. However, if you experience frequent sneezing it can be related to chronic inflammation or allergies affecting the nose or respiratory system. It is worth taking medical advice and getting the necessary tests done to plan appropriate treatment. Get yourself tested for allergies, inflammation and infection.
Why Do We Sneeze When Sick?
As sneezing is a natural way to get rid of foreign substances or irritation, it can occur when you are sick. Commonly, general weakness, allergies and flu make you sick, which may also be accompanied by nose congestion and irritation. It is common to have fever or feel cold when you are sick. This can make your body more sensitive and easily cause nasal irritation by the slightest trigger. This explains why you may experience sneezing when sick.
What Does Sneezing Twice Or Thrice In A Row Mean?
The exact reason behind multiple sneezing is not clear. However, if you sneeze 2 or 3 times, it may mean that you are exposed to something that you do not tolerate well. This can be a normal response to protect such irritants from entering into the respiratory tract or a sign of allergy. It is also possible that your sneeze is a mild one and hence comes in a set of 2 or 3 to completely get rid of the irritant. Some people experience multiple sneezing at a particular time of the day or in a specific situation, which could be allergic too.
Cold is often a result of allergy, certain infections or inflammatory conditions. When you have cold, your nasal membrane becomes more sensitive to add to the inflammation and irritation due to cold. You may sneeze more often when you have cold as the membranes easily get irritated. On exposure to cold air, dust, pollen or other allergens, the body releases histamine, which triggers an allergic response like sneezing, coughing, watery eyes and nose. These are the effective mechanisms to throw away the allergen and protect your body, so you sneeze when having cold.
Why Do We Sneeze In The Sun?
It may be surprising to think that we can also sneeze in the sun. While it is known that cold can trigger sneezing, the thought of sneezing in the sun surely sounds different. But it is true. Some people may experience sneezing when going out in the sun or when looking at bright light. This is called autosomal compelling helio-ophthalmic outburst (ACHOO) syndrome, photic sneeze or sun sneeze reflex.It mainly occurs due to change in the light intensity that irritates the nasal membranes and causes sneezing. While it does not cause any harm, if you experience such sneezing, be careful when doing activities in the sun.
Why Do We Sneeze When Eating?
Another interesting fact on sneezing is that some people can also sneeze after eating. In some, cold foods, spices or certain foods can trigger repeated sneezing. This is called gustatory rhinitis, which may be due to irritation, allergies or infection. Some may also sneeze after having a heavy meal, which is called, stomach sneeze reflex.
Is Sneezing Bad For You?
Sneezing is a protective mechanism, which forces the irritants out of your body. This ensures that the particles do not enter into the respiratory tract, where they can cause more trouble and can lead to serious infections. Sneezing is a reflex that protects you, hence can be considered good. In fact, not sneezing properly or halting your sneeze can be bad, as it can lead the forced air to the ear tubes, where there is a risk of damaging the ear drums. And if there was no protective reflex like sneezing, the irritants would have entered the lungs and caused illnesses.
However, if you have repeated, frequent or violent sneezing or if there are other complaints that bother you, it is necessary to take action. Also, if you are handling sharp objects or involved in driving or risky activities, sneezing can pose a great risk. Hence, for bothersome sneezing, seek medical advice for appropriate tests and treatment.
If you experience sneezing very frequently it is advisable to get a medical opinion. Get yourself tested for allergies and infections and find the right treatment.
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