In our country, there is that romantic notion that if you sneeze someone is thinking of you!

There is also the almost universal custom of wishing you well after a sneeze - like ''God Bless'' in English, Gesundheit (German- wishing you 'good' health!) or the Sanskrit "Shatam Jeevah" (may you live to be a hundred years)!

These relate to the quaint belief that during a sneeze the devil could enter the body and saying a blessing would prevent that from happening! It was also felt that the heart stopped for a fraction during sneezing and that saying ''God bless you'' would kick-start the heart!

in India, in addition, sneezing before an event is considered inauspicious and many times a task has been deferred or delayed because someone sneezed!

Why do we sneeze?

Sneezing is a propulsive protective reflex that originates in the nasal lining and that throws out material from the nose that causes irritation. However, sometimes one can sneeze even in the absence of noxious stimulus - these people are known to be suffering from a condition called Allergic Rhinitis when common substances in the atmosphere - Allergens- cause sneezing and watery discharge from the nose.

Apart from Allergens, Occupational exposure to chemical agents, some medications, hormonal disturbances and Infections can also be responsible for sneezing.

TESTS

Some simple blood tests like CBC and IgE can give us some information about the patient.

If the IgE is very high it is recommended that Allergen-specific tests be carried out to look for the specific substance causing Allergy. this could be a simple blood test or else a Skin Prick test.

In case Allergic Rhinitis has led to Polyp formation or a sinus infection then a nasal endoscopy along with a CT Scan may be ordered.

TREATMENT

Treatment is geared towards treating the Allergic Rhinitis.

Avoidance is an important measure - avoid specific Allergens, avoid dusty and smoky places and avoid sudden changes in temperature.