Cold symptoms: Sneezing

What causes this annoying symptom?

Immune System Expert
Ask Dr. Jen Tan

An introduction to the common cold and sneezing

Sneezing is one of the most common cold symptoms, and while generally not too painful or disruptive, it can be annoying. If you’ve got a sore throat as well, however, sneezing can be quite painful.

One of the problems with sneezing is that it can spread the infection to those around you. If you sneeze onto your hand then anything you touch afterwards could be covered in the virus or bacteria. Even if you cover your mouth, small particles can still escape into the air, which is particularly problematic in the workspace, in crowded public spaces or on planes where fresh air is limited.

What causes sneezing with a common cold?

Sneezing is caused when the mucous membranes in your nose become inflamed and irritated. This inflammation is a natural reaction to infection, and helps the immune cells get to the site of the infection faster. 

As the membranes in your nose become more inflamed and irritated, they also become more sensitive, so even small amounts of dust can cause a sneeze.

When dealing with an infection like the common cold, the body releases histamine, which can also trigger symptoms like sneezing.

Are there home remedies to help me?

Keeping your nasal passages clean and clear is a good way to reduce sneezing. You can do this using a steam bath – just fill a bowl of hot, steaming water and gently breathe it in. The moisture will help to reduce irritation, and the heat can loosen congestion. 

Keeping your home free from as many irritants as possible will also help to reduce sneezing. Regularly hoovering and dusting will reduce dust and dust mites in the air, whilst switching to eco cleaning products will reduce chemical irritants in the air.

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What about herbal remedies?

To ease your overall cold symptoms, we recommend Echinaforce, which contains fresh Echinacea and helps to support your immune system to fight off the infection.

You can also use a nasal spray such as Sinuforce to keep the nasal passages clean and clear. Sinuforce contains a saline solution as well as peppermint, eucalyptus and menthol oils to clear congestion and soothe inflammation and irritation. You can used this nasal spray for up to 30 days so it’s great for sneezing and congestion that lingers after the initial infection has died down.

What conventional medicines can I use?

There aren’t a huge number of conventional treatments available for sneezing unfortunately!

You can try a decongestant such as Sudafed to help loosen congestion and keep the nose clear. Just watch out for the paracetamol content, and make sure you factor this into any other cold medicines or painkillers you’re taking.

You can also buy chemical-based nasal sprays from pharmacies and health stores, but again check their contents and directions – some can only be used for a couple of days at a time. 

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