People in Lexington and Columbia have been sneezing for hundreds of years and will no doubt be sneezing for hundreds more. This universal involuntary reflex has many causes, and while it might be annoying, sneezing actually serves a very important purpose.
Whether you’re a dainty sneezer or your sneezes are loud enough to rattle the walls, sneezing is your body’s way of expelling dirt and bacteria that are causing irritation to your nose and throat. Usually, mucus in the nasal passages traps these irritants, and the stomach digests and neutralizes them. Isn’t science fun?! Occasionally, debris enters the nasal passages and throat, aggravating the mucus membranes. This triggers a sudden expulsion of air with very little warning. Medical professionals call this sternutation, but 99 percent of the population refers to it as sneezing.
There are many possible sneezing triggers, but allergies and viral infections are most common. Allergies are the immune system’s response to a substance it believes to be harmful; pollen, dust mites, animal dander and mold are the most common organisms. Sneezing is your body’s way of removing these allergens.
Over 200 known viruses cause upper respiratory infections; most of them lead to the common cold or flu. Sneezing is another tool in your body’s arsenal of weapons against germs and bacteria. You might sneeze during an inopportune moment, but rest assured that it’s an important bodily function that helps to keep you healthy. Sneezing is rarely a symptom of anything serious.
Other sneezing triggers include:
- Nasal irritants
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays
- Drug withdrawal
- Trauma to the nose
- Breathing cold air
- Inhaling irritants like dust and pepper
Sneeze-Proofing Your Environment
Much like a bad penny or an overzealous mother-in-law, you can’t permanently banish sneezing from your life. But your Lexington ENT specialist says there are things you can do to make your surrounding environment less likely to trigger a sneeze, including the following:
- Replace furnace filters regularly
- Keep your pets’ fur trimmed or remove them from rooms where you spend a lot of time
- Wash bedding and other linens in hot water to kill dust mites
- Purchase a HEPA (high energy particulate air) filter; these trap 99.97 percent of microscopic particles, many of which can cause sneezing
- Have your home inspected for mold and remove it if necessary
If you have a cold or allergies, treat symptoms with over-the-counter or prescription medications and nasal sprays. Make sure you get a lot of rest to promote healing and keep your body hydrated by drinking plenty of water. If drugs don’t help with allergies, your doctor might recommend immunotherapy (allergy shots or drops) for long-term relief.
If you have any concerns about sneezing, contact an ear, nose and throat specialist in Lexington to set up an appointment.