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A sudden forceful, involuntary expulsion of air through the nose and mouth, also known as sternutation.
Persons most commonly affected: All age groups and both sexes.
Organ or part of body involved: Upper respiratory tract.
Symptoms and indications: Mucus-laden air exits the mouth at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour and, unless covered, can travel distances as much as 12 feet. Added pressure if the mouth is closed may drive mucus into the sinuses and ears, where it may form a breeding ground for bacterial infections.
Causes and risk factors: Allergy to pollen, mold, dander, dust (allergy or hay fever); virus infections (common cold, upper respiratory tract infections); opiate withdrawal; and corticosteroid inhalation.
Prevention: Avoiding exposure to the offending allergen is the most effective means of controlling sneezing caused by allergic diseases. Some suggestions to minimize exposure include: removing pets from the home to avoid animal dander, changing furnace filters, using air filtration devices to minimize the concentration of airborne pollens, or traveling to areas with low pollen counts during the critical periods. Even changing residence to eliminate a mold spore problem may be necessary.