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My Child Sneezes All the Time: What Could It Be?

My Child Sneezes All the Time: What Could It Be?

While the occasional sneeze from your child doesn’t usually elicit more than the standard “bless you” or “gesundheit” in response, frequent or ongoing sneezing can leave you feeling concerned about their health. You may wonder:

Luckily, chronic sneezing is rarely a sign of something serious — and our team at Pediatric Practitioners of Oklahoma can get to the bottom of the problem with a comprehensive exam. Here’s what you should know if your child seems to be sneezing all the time.   

Sneezing is a first-line defense

Sneezing is a spontaneous reflex that forcefully clears mucus, germs, airborne pollutants, allergens, or dust from your nose and throat. Like coughing, blinking, and other involuntary reflexes, it’s one of your body’s key protective mechanisms against irritants and pathogens. 

Your nose, throat, and airway are very sensitive to irritating particles that don’t belong, and seek to dispel them quickly through sneezing as well as coughing.

Both are instantaneous reactions that are exceptionally effective: You teach your little one to cover their nose and mouth because coughing can expel up to 3,000 droplets at up to 50 miles per hour, and sneezing can expel up to 100,000 droplets at up to 100 miles per hour.   

Why does my child sneeze so much?

While the occasional sneeze helps clear immediate irritants from your child’s nose and throat, constant sneezing that persists over time is usually a sign of ongoing irritation from an illness, allergen, or pollutant. Let’s take a closer look:

A respiratory illness

Respiratory illness from infectious pathogens like influenza and human metapneumovirus (HMPV) can induce sneezing through normal immune system activation and associated inflammation. The common cold — caused by highly contagious rhinoviruses — accounts for most cases of illness-related sneezing among children.

When your child starts sneezing because they’re sick, they typically have other telltale symptoms, too, such as a stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, cough, body aches, headache or head pressure, a fever, low energy, and a diminished appetite.

An airborne allergen 

When kids who aren’t sick start sneezing a lot, it’s typically because of allergic rhinitis. Also known as hay fever, this common allergic reaction occurs when exposure to an airborne allergen causes nasal inflammation and irritation. Airborne allergens that frequently affect kids include:

Some airborne allergens are seasonal and occur outdoors, while others occur indoors and may be part of your child’s home, day care, or school environment. Allergen-induced sneezing is frequently accompanied by a runny nose, watery eyes, and itchiness around the nose, mouth, throat, and eyes.

An environmental irritant

Persistent sneezing may also occur when your child is exposed to an airborne substance that irritates their nasal passageway. Smoke, air pollution, paint fumes, and perfume can all trigger ongoing sneezing by causing physical irritation to the lining of the nose, without activating an allergic reaction.

This is usually a temporary problem, but sometimes, kids develop a more chronic form of the condition called vasomotor rhinitis, or nonallergic rhinitis. With vasomotor rhinitis, an airborne substance triggers nasal inflammation and irritation that lingers longer.

While this sneeze-inducing condition tends to affect adults more often, kids can develop it, too. What’s more, it can also occur as a side effect of cold or dry air, temperature changes, stress, medication use (i.e., antidepressants), and puberty.

What’s irritating your child’s nose?

If your child seems to sneeze often, come see our team for a comprehensive evaluation. We’ll want to know when the sneezing started and whether they have other symptoms or any known allergies; we’ll also examine their nose, throat, ears, and eyes, and conduct a more complete physical exam if warranted.

Depending on our findings, we may prescribe a treatment plan, recommend allergy testing to gain further insight into a possible cause, or suggest certain lifestyle changes to help control allergic or nonallergic rhinitis.

Does your child sneeze a lot? We can find out why. Call 918-283-4660 to reach Pediatric Practitioners of Oklahoma in Claremore, Oklahoma, today, or use our easy online booking feature to schedule a visit at your convenience.

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