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How to Relieve Sneezing From Allergies

By Kristen Seymour

If phrases like, “Bless you!” and, “Gesundheit!” follow you around like woodland creatures padding after Snow White, you may wonder, "Why am I sneezing so much?"

That question has many potential answers. Possible causes of sneezing include allergies, cold and influenza viruses, strong odors, dry air, dust, and chemical and physical irritants (for instance, when you smell black pepper or glance at the sun and feel a tell-tale tickle).1

But let’s focus on allergies, one of the most common causes of sneezing. The good news is, you can treat the symptoms of allergies to prevent sneezing fits. Keep reading to discover whether allergies are causing you to sneeze and learn how to stop sneezing from allergies.

10 Facts About Sneezing

Person sneezing

Sneezing is a reflex response that protects your body from unwanted invaders, whether they’re germs or allergens.


Sneezing is common to all humans and widespread in the animal kingdom.


Sternutation is the medical word for sneezing.


Each sneeze can produce up to 40,000 droplets.

20 droplets representing the 40,000 droplets released during a sneeze Water droplet = 2,000 droplets

A sneeze can move at up to 33 to 100 feet per second

  • Illustration of a woman sneezing
  • Illustration of a sneeze moving through the air 33 to 100 feet

Germs from one sneeze can travel 23 to 26 feet.

Illustration of germs from a sneeze

The Greeks and the Romans saw sneezing as a sign of wellness. They expressed good wishes to a sneezing person with the phrases, "Live long" or "May Jupiter bless you."

Circle graph depicting that 25% of people sneeze when looking at the sun

Studies suggest 25% of people sneeze when they look at the sun, a condition called ACHOO Syndrome.


A rare condition called intractable sneezing causes people to sneeze incessantly for months. (Doctors primarily consider it a psychogenic disease and treat it with psychotherapy, biofeedback, and relaxation exercises.)

Germs from a sneeze

Sneezing can transmit harmful pathogens. Scientists are studying whether it may also transmit beneficial microbes.


Allergy Triggers That Cause Sneezing

Seasonal allergies, also called hay fever and allergic rhinitis, impact an estimated 5.2 million children and 19.2 million adults, making it one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States.2 That means many people have a vested interest in figuring out how to stop sneezing from allergies.3

If you want to determine what’s causing your sneezing fits, it’s important to identify the allergic triggers you’ve contacted. The best way to relieve sneezing from allergies is to avoid exposure to irritants. If you know you sneeze when you’re around a particular plant or when you sniff Aunt Susan’s cloud of perfume, you can minimize your exposure.4

Sometimes, of course, you can’t avoid allergens. In this case, if you must stifle a sneeze, try breathing through your mouth and pinching the end of your nose. But it’s better to take preventive measures to keep sneezing under control. First, it helps to understand why, exactly, an allergen such as pollen, pet dander, mold, or dust causes such an inconvenient response.

Why Do Allergies Make Us Sneeze?

Achoo! We’re all familiar with sneezing, but have you wondered why and how your body does it? These five steps will help you understand what happens in your body.

  1. First, an allergen enters your body. Seasonal allergens include pollen, which is released into the air by trees, grasses, and weeds during pollination. (Learn more about what’s making you sneeze by checking our month-to-month pollen guide.)
  2. Once you breathe the allergen, your immune system detects it and begins to attack it like it would a virus or harmful invader, even though the allergen in question is generally harmless.
  3. As part of the attack, your immune system reacts by releasing a chemical called histamine.
  4. The physical reactions you identify with allergies, such as nasal passages swelling up and your nose and throat getting itchy, are your body’s reactions to the histamine.
  5. Then you sneeze. Your body is trying to expel the allergen. Your brain tells the muscles in your chest to contract, your eyes and soft palate close, and next thing you know, you have your face in the crook of your elbow, and you hope there’s a box of tissues within reach

What Happens When
You Sneeze

Person sneezing

Sneezing is a reflex coordinated between the respiratory, musculoskeletal, and parasympathetic nervous systems.

Scientists don’t entirely understand the neurology of the sneeze reflex.

They divide it into two phases.


The nasal or sensitive phase

A chemical or physical irritant stimulates the facial skin or nasal mucosa.

Illustrations of a person's trigeminal nerve in yellow

The nerves transmit the stimuli to the brain. The sneezing center of the brain may be in the rostrolateral medulla (RLM) in the lower brainstem.

It triggers nerve receptor endings on the distal branches of the trigeminal nerves.

Illustration of a brain with the midbrain, pons, and medulla labeled

The efferent or respiratory phase

The brain triggers a sneeze response.

Your eyes close.

You take a deep breath.

The glottis (the part of the larynx consisting of the vocal cords and the opening between them) closes.

Your respiratory muscles tighten, and the pressure in the alveoli of the lungs increases.

Your glottis suddenly opens.

Air and droplets explode through the mouth and nose, washing out mucosal debris and irritants.


Could It Be a Cold?

When you’re unsure whether you’ve contacted an allergic trigger, it’s natural to wonder, "Why do I keep sneezing? Is it allergies or a cold?" Take our allergies versus cold quiz to find out which one you may have. One clue is the duration of the symptoms. A cold typically lasts less than 14 days, but allergy symptoms can persist for as long as you’re exposed to the trigger, which could be a short amount of time or could stretch into weeks or months.5

How to Relieve Sneezing From Allergies

Once you’ve determined that you’re suffering from allergies rather than a cold, you’re ready to figure out how to reduce or relieve sneezing. Here are a few actions you can take: 6

How to Relieve Sneezing
From Allergies

Take these 6 steps to prevent or reduce sneezing from allergies.

A sign indicating

Identify what’s triggering your allergy. If possible, remove or avoid the trigger.

Illustration of a man washing his hair

If you can’t avoid the trigger, reduce your exposure to it. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, stay indoors when pollen counts are high, change your clothes and remove your shoes when you come inside, and shower and wash your hair before bed.

Illustration of a red vacuum

Reduce your exposure to indoor allergens by cleaning with a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, keeping indoor humidity low, and installing an air purifier with a HEPA filter.

Illustration of a saline nasal irrigation bottle

Rinse your sinuses daily with a sterile saline solution to relieve nasal congestion and wash away allergens.

Illustration of oral allergy medication

Take an oral antihistamine, decongestant, or medicated nasal spray to control your symptoms.

Illustration of an immunotherapy shot

Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of getting immunotherapy (sometimes called allergy shots) to reduce your body’s reaction to allergens.


  • Remove or avoid the trigger

    If the allergen that’s causing your body to react is no longer present, then your allergy symptoms and sneezing will stop. However, you may not know what you’re allergic to. Is it something that’s blooming? Did you come into contact with an animal that triggered allergies with their dander? Could you have been around mold or dust? If you can’t pinpoint the cause, it’s difficult to remove or avoid it. (Your doctor can recommend allergy tests to help you get to the bottom of these questions. But unless your allergies are severe, long-lasting, and impact your daily life, simpler options may offer you the relief you need to help you stop sneezing.)

    Even if you know what causes your allergies, it’s not always possible to steer clear of the trigger. For example, if tree pollen makes you sneeze and you live in an area with forests and tree-lined streets, you can’t avoid the trigger for the entire allergy season, although it’s possible to mitigate your contact with it.

  • Reduce your exposure

    If you can’t avoid the trigger, try to reduce your exposure to it. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, stay indoors as much as possible when pollen counts are high and check our page How to Avoid Outdoor Allergies for more tips.

    Even if you rarely venture outside, you may want to take additional steps to reduce indoor allergens. Vist our pages 7 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality and 5 Indoor Air Quality Tips to learn how to reduce dust, mold spores, pet dander, pollen particles, and other allergens in your house.

  • Rinse your sinuses

    Use a neti pot or squeeze bottle to rinse your nasal passages with a sterile saline solution daily to relieve nasal congestion.7 It clears out mucus throughout your nasal passages — along with the allergens caught in it — thus it can help reduce sneezing.

  • Take an oral antihistamine, decongestant, or nasal spray

    Many people find that medication is an effective way to manage their allergy symptoms, including sneezing. You can learn more about types of allergy medicine here. Use our allergy medicine comparison chart to find the right allergy medicine to help relieve sneezing from your allergies.

  • Try immunotherapy

    Allergen immunotherapy (aka allergy shots) is another treatment option that may reduce hay fever symptoms and reduce medication use in many people suffering from allergies. Immunotherapy is also known as desensitization, which describes the goal well as the goal is to help your immune system get used to the allergen and become less sensitive to it. The process, which takes about three years, entails exposing the body to extracts of the allergen in order to get it to react differently. It’s a bit like being vaccinated against whatever it is you’re allergic to. Doctors may inject allergen extracts in the form of shots, but tablets and drops may also be an option.8


The first step to figuring out how to stop sneezing is to understand why allergies cause you to sneeze and identify your likely triggers. The more information you have, the more effectively you can avoid or reduce your exposure to allergens by staying indoors when possible and maintaining an allergen-free environment within your home. If you still struggle to achieve sneeze-free status, you may benefit from rinsing your sinuses, taking allergy medicine, or exploring immunotherapy.


Kristen Seymour

Kristen Seymour brought her passion for both pets and writing to the online space nearly a decade ago, working as an editor at AOL’s Paw Nation and then She’s also a regular contributor to HealthyPet Magazine. Additionally, Seymour covers fitness, food and healthy (and yes, sometimes pets!) on her Fit Bottomed Girls website and podcast. Based in sunny Sarasota, Florida, Seymour shares her office with her husband and a small menagerie of rescue pets: a snuggly senior Lab mix, a mouthy hound mix and a cat who loves to be petted exactly seven times—but never eight.





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