What Causes Sneezing and Runny Nose?

There are various health conditions like flu, a cold, sinus infection or allergies that are characterized by a runny nose as well as sneezing. This is because the conditions cause an increase in the production of mucus, which leads to a runny nose. Also, different substances can cause an irritation of the nasal passages, which triggers sneezing. When you suffer an allergic reaction, your body produces histamine, which also causes the symptoms. Here’s all you need to know.

Conditions That Cause a Runny Nose and Sneezing  

Conditions that are characterized by sneezing and a stuffy nose include:

1.    A Sinus Infection

There are generally 2 types of sinus infections. These are an acute sinus infection and chronic sinus infection. Either of these infections can either be caused by a virus or bacteria. In some cases, long-standing sinus infections can be caused by fungus.

2.    Overuse of Nasal Sprays

There are numerous decongestant nasal sprays that are sold over the counter. Because of their availability, it is possible to overuse them. This causes sneezing and runny nose. When you continue using it even after it causes these symptoms, it can lead to chronic blockage of the nasal passages. A lot of people who use these sprays do not even know that it is what causes their nasals to completely block.

3.   Allergic Rhinitis

Sneezing and a runny nose can also be caused by allergic rhinitis or hay fever. Symptoms develop within minutes or a few hours after coming into contact with an allergen. Some of the symptoms you will notice immediately include sneezing, runny nose, a tickle in the throat, itchy and watery eyes, itchy ears, nose and throat. The most common causes of allergic rhinitis include dust mites, grass pollen, animal dander, mold, and cat saliva. The best treatment is to stay away from these irritants and manage the symptoms proper products and care as explained below.

4.  Non-Allergic Rhinitis

Non-allergic rhinitis is an ailment that comes camouflaged as hay fever. It is characterized by symptoms such as nasal congestion but is not caused by allergens. As opposed to normal nasal allergies, the non-allergic conditions are most common in adults.

There are also other issues that can cause a runny nose and sneezing. Generally, anything you're exposed to can aggravate the nose and cause nasal stuffiness and sneezing. Other common causes include:

  • Deviated septum
  • Common cold
  • Dry air
  • Drug addiction
  • Medications
  • Influenza
  • Change in hormones
  • Pregnancy
  • Nasal polyps
  • Smoking of tobacco
  • Lodged objects in the nose

If your nose doesn’t seem to stop running and you are also consistently sneezing, it is possible that you are suffering from non-allergic rhinitis.


Non-allergic rhinitis can affect adults as well as children. Even so, it is most common in people over the age of 20. This condition is triggered by different factors such as weather changes, exposure to odors, irritants present in the air, some foods, medications, as well as chronic health complications.

You are only diagnosed with non-allergic rhinitis after the possibility of an allergic reaction is ruled out. Aside from sneezing and runny nose, there are other symptoms associated with this condition. They include cough and mucus presence in the throat.


What exactly causes this condition is still unknown. However, experts say that it is caused by the dilations of blood vessels in the nasal cavities. This fills the nasal lining with fluid and blood. This abnormal dilation of the vessels can be as a result of several factors. The most likely cause is the hyperresponsiveness of the nerve endings located in the nose. This happens in the same way the lungs respond to asthma. It causes nasal congestion because of the swelling of the nasal membranes. There are different factors that trigger non-allergic rhinitis. Some of these triggers cause temporary symptoms while others can cause long-term symptoms. These triggers include:

  • Occupational or Environmental Irritants

Second-hand smoke, smog, dust, or even strong odors can trigger the condition. If your work entails exposure to chemical fumes, it might be the reason you cannot stop sneezing and blowing your nose.  

  • Changes in the Weather

Exposure to changing temperatures and humidity can also cause a runny nose and sneezing. This is because these weather and humidity changes cause inflammation in your nasal membranes, which causes these symptoms.

  • Viral Infections and Certain Foods 

A viral infection can cause symptoms like sneezing and runny nose. You can also develop non-allergic rhinitis from eating foods that are too spicy or hot. Taking alcohol is also a common cause.

  • Medication

Medication such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and medication for hypertension can cause non-allergic rhinitis.

  • Changes in Hormones

Pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and menstruation cause a change in your body hormones. This can cause inflammation in your nasal passages which causes irritation.

Treatment and Management Strategies

The treatment mostly depends on how often you sneeze and have a runny nose. If the symptoms are not too common, you are advised to stay away from triggers and try a few home treatments.  If your symptoms are chronic, there are some medications you can use.

  • Nasal Sprays

You can get these sprays over the counter. You can also use homemade salt water solutions to flush out the irritants. These help to thin the mucus and also soothe the nasal membranes to reduce inflammation.

  • Oral Decongestants

These can be bought over the counter or with a prescription. Some oral decongestants include drugs that contain pseudoephedrine like Phenylephrine and Sudafed. These work to narrow the blood vessels in the nasal passages, which helps to reduce congestion. Restlessness, hypertension and increased heart rate are common side effects.

•    Antihistamine Drugs

You can also use oral antihistamine drugs that can be bought over the counter. Good examples include Loratadine (Claritin), Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), Fexofenadine (Allegra), and Cetirizine (Zyrtec).

  • Corticosteroid Sprays

If decongestants do not treat your symptoms, you may need to use a corticosteroid nasal spray like Flonase and Triamcinolone. You can choose to use prescription or non-prescription nasal sprays. 

If your condition is not helped by medication, there are surgical procedures that can be done to treat the issue. 

Natural Remedies for Sneezing and a Runny Nose

  1. Salt Water

This is one of the best remedies for a runny nose and sneezing as it helps relieve the underlying irritation. It helps thin mucus and makes it easier to expel. Consequently, you get to clear your nasal passage of any irritants.  Mix a ½ teaspoon of salt with two cups of warm water (distilled).  Using a dropper, put a few drops of the salt solution into your nostrils. Make sure your head is tilted backwards and inhale to allow the solutions deep into your nasal passages. Finally, blow your nose to get rid any excess mucus. Repeat this until you feel some relief.

  1. Steam

Steam is an excellent remedy for sneezing and a runny nose as it helps clear out excess mucus. Put some boiling hot water into a bowl and hold your face over it with a towel over your head. Inhale the steam for 10 minutes followed by 2 minutes of blowing your nose. Do this about 4 times every day until the symptoms clear.

pot of boiling water and steam yourself with it. The aroma of mustard will help to warm up your respiratory systems and provide relief.

  1. Turmeric

Turmeric has strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-bacterial and antiviral properties that make it an ideal remedy for a running nose. You can loosen mucus by taking ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder twice a day. Mix it with water to make it easier to take. You can also mix a tablespoon of turmeric with one glass on warm milk. Drink the mixture before going to bed. This will help provide quick relief to a running nose and sneezing.

  1. Ginger

Ginger is an excellent antioxidant, antifungal, antitoxic and antiviral that can help provide relief from symptoms of sneezing and a runny nose. Sprinkle some salt over small pieces of raw ginger and chew on them as you go about your daily routine. This will help ease the symptoms of a running nose and sneezing. You can also make ginger tea by throwing slices of ginger into boiling water. Ginger also makes for a great addition to your steam water.

  1. Mustard Oil

This oil has antihistamine, antiviral and antibiotic properties that make it a great treatment option for those suffering from runny nose and sneezing. Heat a little mustard oil until it’s slightly warm and then put it in a dropper. Pour a drop or two into each nostril to help clear the nasal passage. You should do this 3 times a day until the symptoms clear. You can also add some mustard oil and caraway seeds to a

  1. Garlic

If you have a runny nose, then garlic is a wonderful natural treatment option. It has strong antiseptic and antibacterial properties that will help relieve symptoms fast. You can chew on a piece of garlic 4 times every day or take garlic supplements. Alternatively, you can boil three cloves of chopped garlic for several minutes to make soup. Strain and add some sugar, and then drink the soup two times a day. 

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