Asthma Linked to Bone Loss in Study

HealthDay News -- People with asthma could be at higher risk of bone loss, new research suggests. 

But it's not clear how the two conditions might be related.

"We know prolonged use of corticosteroids in the treatment of asthma is a risk factor of osteoporosis, but we haven't had definite data showing the relationship between asthma itself and bone loss," study author Dr. Jae-Woo Jung said in a news release from the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).

"This study has shown a meaningful association between the two conditions, even in the absence of previous oral corticosteroid use," noted Jung.

The researchers studied more than 7,000 people, including 433 with asthma. They found that bone density in the lumbar spine and femur was significantly lower in those with asthma.

"It is difficult to pinpoint the cause of bone loss in this subset of patients," said allergist Dr. John Oppenheimer in a statement provided by the ACAAI.

"Reasons can include corticosteroid use, low levels of vitamin D or even race. This research has unveiled findings that need be further studied," he said.

Although steroid treatments for asthma may be a possible link to bone loss, no one should stop taking these drugs without talking to their doctor.

"Asthma is a serious disease that can be life-threatening," Oppenheimer said. "It is important that those with asthma and other breathing problems continue their prescribed treatment. It is also imperative that allergists discuss the potential of the disease itself or as a consequence of therapy in asthma sufferers."

Side effects from corticosteroid treatment are generally more evident with oral forms of the drugs instead of inhaled, though oral steroids are more effective. Doctors prescribe inhaled corticosteroids whenever possible. If oral corticosteroids are necessary, doctors will prescribe the lowest effective dose to help avoid side effects, according to the ACAAI news release.

The study appears in the May issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.


By Randy Dotinga
May 7, 2014

Why Are My Allergies So Bad?

It’s being called the “Pollen Vortex” of allergy seasons and we have the blood shot eyes and difficulty breathing to prove it (or is that just due to lack of sleep now that my twins are in “big girl” beds?). Breezy Mama turned to Dr. Jill Bryson, MD, primary care physician at Benton Family Clinic, to find out why this allergy season is particularly brutal, the symptoms that you have allergies and the safest treatments.

Why are allergies so bad for people this year?

There was an exceptionally harsh winter this year, with record-setting snowfall in some regions and extended below-freezing temperatures. This elongated winter meant late flowering for trees. As a result, trees had less time to pollinate, causing higher than normal amounts of pollen to be released all at once. This phenomenon is being referred to as the “pollen vortex”.

What are symptoms it’s allergies and not a cold or other illness?

The duration of symptoms is an important indicator. A cold typically lasts 3-14 days whereas allergy symptoms will remain for as long as the allergen is present. If you experience symptoms for longer than two weeks, you should see your primary care physician and request an allergy test.

Another indicator is the color of the mucus. If you are producing large amounts of yellow mucus, it is likely a cold.

What do you recommend to relieve allergies?

Patients that suffer from allergies should discuss care and treatment options with their primary care physician or family doctor. A primary care physician can test, diagnose and provide patients with accessible treatment options. If you have allergies for more than three months out of the year, talk to your doctor about allergy testing and immunotherapy (allergy shots). Immunotherapy treats the root cause of allergies, as opposed to over-the-counter medications (such as Claritin) that only mask symptoms. This means that patients taking immunotherapy will eventually build up an immune response to their allergens, so they don’t need to take ongoing medication. Another added benefit of allergy shots is customization. Unlike immunotherapy tablets that only treat one allergen at a time, allergy shots can be customized to treat all of your allergies simultaneously.

When I take an over the counter med, I get a little pain in my chest. Are there gentler solutions?

If you are experiencing pain from your medications, you should try a different method. There are a number of ways that allergy sufferers can both treat and minimize their symptoms. You may want to consider the following:

· Avoid your allergen: Once you know what allergen is causing a reaction, avoid contact! If you’re allergic to pollen, stay indoors in the morning/evening when pollen counts are at their highest.

· Clean House: Dust and mold are two of the most common allergens. If your allergy test shows you’re allergic to these, wash bedding in hot water to eliminate dust mites and other allergy triggers.

· Shower at night: Pollen in the air builds up on your clothes and hair throughout the day. Minimize your symptoms by showering in the early evening.

· Exercise at night: Pollen counts are highest in the morning so allergy sufferers should try to avoid outdoor exercise at this time.

Who offers the seasonal allergy shots and where can people get them?

Primary care physicians can deliver allergy shots that dramatically impact the quality of life for allergy sufferers. United Allergy Services (UAS) enables primary care physicians, pulmonologists, pediatricians and internal medicine physicians to provide their patients with customized allergy shots that patients can administer themselves at home. This means no more trips back and forth to the allergist’s office and within three to five years you could be symptom free. For seasonal and perennial allergy sufferers, self-administered immunotherapy under the guidance of a primary care physician allows a broader population of patients to receive high-quality, affordable, safe, allergy care so these patients can resume active, full, healthy lifestyles.

What do you recommend as the safest treatment for adults with allergies?

For both children and adults, the first step is to talk to your primary care physician about allergy testing. Allergy testing will allow you to identify and avoid your specific offending allergens. Such “avoidance therapy” in itself may diminish symptoms by as much as 50 percent. If ongoing treatment is necessary, I recommend immunotherapy. The safety of immunotherapy has been proven by more than a century of scientific research and medical practice. Furthermore, it is the only treatment that addresses the actual cause of allergies rather than the symptoms. Immunotherapy has also been shown to decrease the development and onset of new allergies and decrease the risk of developing allergic asthma.

What is the safest treatment for kids suffering from seasonal allergies?

Avoidance is a safe technique but it is generally impractical for kids. Kids should be enjoying life outdoors not suffering from seasonal allergies. I generally recommend immunotherapy.

Anything else you’d like to share about allergy season?

More than anything, be sure to talk to your doctor. Too many people are suffering unnecessarily from allergies and self-medicating. Schedule an appointment with your family doctor or discuss your symptoms during your next appointment. Don’t miss out on outdoor fun this year. Talk to your doctor and get tested.


By Chelsea Gladden
May 5, 2014

Spring allergy relief: Here's what to try first

New medications and old tricks can help ease that sneezing and sniffling.

Sneezing, congestion, runny noses and itchy eyes. For people with seasonal nasal allergies — commonly known as hay fever — these symptoms are nothing new. They are as predictable as the explosion of tree pollen happening now in many parts of the country and the bursts of grass and ragweed pollens still to come.

But when it comes to treating those symptoms, there is some news this year.

First, consumers can now buy one kind of allergy medicine, a steroid nasal spray, without a prescription. Nasacort is the first drug in that class to make it to drugstore shelves.

Second, the Food and Drug Administration has just approved the first two of several dissolvable pills that may replace allergy shots for some patients. The pills contain grass pollen extracts and, taken over time, will help some patients build up tolerance – without having to return to a doctor's office for months or years of injections.

But those medications are not the first things to try, doctors say. In fact, some tried and true strategies don't involve medication at all. Among them:

• Pay attention to pollen counts. "In many parts of the country, pollen counts are highest between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. and start to rise again after dusk," says Michael Foggs, an allergy specialist in Chicago and president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Fit in your jog or gardening between those peaks or right after a cleansing rain, he suggests.

• Close your windows. "What I tell people with significant pollen allergies is that if they open the windows to get the breeze and fresh air, they also are inviting a cloud of pollen into their houses," says James Li, an allergy specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

• Turn on the air conditioner. Or at least run the fan on your heating and cooling system. Good ventilation, combined with a high-efficiency filter, will help clean indoor air.

• Keep yourself clean. After some time outside, leave your shoes at the door, rinse off in the shower and put on fresh clothes.

• Try nasal rinses or sprays. Saline rinses and sprays can help wash pollen away and soothe tissues. "We tell patients who live near the ocean to go jump in" for the saltwater effect, Foggs says.

• Don't forget your eyes. Strategies that help your nose often help eyes too. But some people need more. That might include prescription eye drops but also can include rinsing the eyes with cold water, using cold compresses or chilling artificial tear drops before use, says Mark Blecher, an ophthalmologist at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. "People tend to forget that things that are so simple and safe can be very helpful," he says.

Many people will find they do need medications to get through their worst weeks or months. The first to try, because they have the fewest potential side effects, are the non-sedating antihistamines on drugstore shelves, Foggs and Li say. If those don't work, steroid nasal sprays — the one available over the counter and prescription versions — are good options, they say. Guidelines from several physicians' groups say the steroid sprays are the most effective medications for nasal allergies. Additional prescription medications, including antihistamine nose sprays, are available.

"There's individual variability in response to medication," Li says. "You can try several until you find the best fit."

When those fail, or side effects are a problem, there's immunotherapy — treatments designed to lower sensitivity by exposing patients to tiny but increasing doses of allergens (the offending pollens or other substances). Traditionally, that has meant going to an allergist's office to get shots.

The new immunotherapy tablets can, after a first dose in a doctor's office, be taken at home. But there's a catch: the first few in the pipeline work against just one allergen type at a time. For example, the first two tablets approved by the FDA work against grass pollens; others will work against rag weed or dust mites. Allergy shots, by contrast, can combine extracts from several allergens. That comes in handy, since most people are allergic to more than one thing, Li and Foggs say.

Allergy specialists can test patients to find out exactly what those things are and whether any other conditions are causing their symptoms.


By Kim Painter
April 20, 2014

The Polar Vortex Is to Blame for This Year's Brutal Allergy Season

Those cold snaps helped spawn a spring allergy season so intense that it already has its own headline-ready nickname: the "pollen vortex."

One week ago, I purchased the first asthma inhaler I've owned since the 8th grade. I'd shown up at my doctor's office short of breath, and a lung function test promptly revealed that I was inhaling about one-fifth as much air as a healthy 24-year-old should be. "We're expecting a lot of cases like you," my doctor told me as he wrote my prescription. "It's going to be a hell of a pollen season."

And for that, you can blame the polar vortex—the extreme cold system that repeatedly hovered over much of the United States this year—along with the rest of this winter's brutal weather. Those cold snaps helped spawn a spring allergy season so intense that it already has its own headline-ready nickname: the "pollen vortex."

"The long winter, the particularly cold weather, it all pushed the pollen season back quite a bit," says Estelle Levetin, the chair of the biology department at the University of Tulsa. Individual flowering trees probably aren't producing more pollen, Levetin says—but they're all dumping their pollen at once, making this allergy season particularly difficult for people who are sensitive to more than one type of pollen.

"It's going to be a hell of a pollen season."

The simple reason is that flowers are temperature-sensitive. They don't open up and release pollen when it's cold. "If you look at daily pollen levels, typically, you would see them track the temperature," Levetin says. Trees that normally would have bloomed several weeks ago are just budding now. In Oklahoma, where Levetin lives, the first allergenic trees blossomed "easily a month late."

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America counts 45 million people in the United States who suffer from nasal allergies, and another 25 million with asthma—both conditions that can be can be aggravated by pollen. Those figures come with sweeping economic consequences. Every year, asthma costs $18 billion in hospital visits and lost workdays, according to the AAFA.

This week may offer some relief, thanks to the relationship between cold weather and pollen counts. People living in the West are already experiencing lower pollen levels due to the cold front moving across the country. When it hits, the cold slows the release of pollen. But unless a region undergoes freezing temperatures for several days, says Levetin, once warm weather returns, so will the pollen deluge.

While no single weather event—the cold snaps that caused this year's pollen vortex, for example—can be directly attributed to global warming, the science community is engaged in a lively debate over whether climate change is making unusual weather events, including severe cold temperatures, more likely. Jennifer Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University, argues that the rapidly warming Arctic has caused the jet stream to slow, which could result in atmospheric events, such as winter storms, staying put for longer.

But even if climate change can't be blamed for this year's pollen vortex, there is substantial evidence that a warming planet spells a more agonizing allergy season. Cold weather may have caused the current pollen backlog, but over the long term, the opposite may be true. Hotter temperatures, an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, and greater precipitation levels in some regions of the United States all conspire to create near-ideal conditions for the weedy plants that give off allergenic pollen, according to a 2008 study from the Environmental Protection Agency. "Warmer temperatures and increased precipitation cause some plants to grow faster, bloom earlier, and produce more pollen," the study found. "Temperature changes are expected to alter allergy seasons to begin earlier and last longer and the distribution of allergenic plant varieties to change over time."

The EPA is hardly alone in saying that climate change could make allergy season more hellish. A 2010 report by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences warns, "There is also a possibility that certain aeroallergens may become more allergenic as temperatures and CO2 concentrations increase." (Besides exacerbating the pollen count, climate change is linked in some regions to a rise in ozone, fine particles, and dust—all of which can cause or worsen respiratory diseases, the report found.)

Plant physiologists have observed that the weeds that produce many allergens have adapted the best to an atmosphere that is chock-full of carbon dioxide, Scientific American reported in 2012. Pollen from ragweed, for instance, which peaks in the summer and is one of the most common triggers for allergies, has exploded as the climate has warmed. From 1995 to 2011, according to the EPA, the ragweed allergy season grew up to 24 days longer in regions across the Midwest:

As the map suggests, northern regions of the United States, where warming in more pronounced, will bear the brunt of increases in most types of environmental allergens. Warmer temperatures are already allowing hickory and oak, two highly allergenic tree species, to thrive in new regions. In the United Kingdom, the Health Protection Agency has observed that the hay fever season is growing longer.

The future may offer a reprieve from agonizing allergy seasons. Leonard Bielory, an environmental sciences professor at Rutgers, predicted in Scientific American that a warming planet will eventually cause pollen counts to taper off. "It cannot continue on a linear scale," he said. "If heat goes up to a certain temperature, plants will die. It will hit a breaking point." Of course, at that point, a prolonged allergy season won't be high on the list of problems.

By Molly Redden
April 16, 2014

10 spots in your home where allergies can attack

Your home should be your safe haven, but if you're an allergy sufferer, it might actually be the source of your misery. Check out the interactive home tour, below, to see where in your house different allergens can lurk. And then follow the tips provided to do what you can to rid your house of any nasty molds, dust mites, and more that make your allergies act up.


Windows: Pollen granules can infiltrate your home through improperly sealed windows. Caulk and seal your windows to stop the infiltration! Then choose the “circulate” setting for your home and auto-air-conditioning system to avoid introducing outside air containing airborne allergens

Under the Couch: Dust mites can’t be drowned, so the most effective way to get rid of them is to reduce the amountof dust in your home (shock!). Use a damp mop and damp cloth under furniture (like the couch) and on floors, windowsills, window-blend slats, bedsprings, and other areas that act as dust mite catchers.

Carpets: Teeny, tiny pollen granules are produced in such high quantities that they can travel through the air for miles. If you’re pollen-sensitive, you need to do what you can to avoid it. Removing carpeting and area rugs is a good place to start. This also helps reduce the amount of dust—another allergen—in your home.


Pet Bowl: The major allergen from animals is not their fur but proteins secreted by skin glands that are found in dander, in the saliva that sticks to fur when the animal ticks itself, and in the animal’s urine. No need to get rid of your furry friend through! To keep allergies to a minimum, bathe your pet weekly, which will help remove dander. Also wash your face, hands, and arms after grooming or playing with pets.


Bed: Dust mites (or, rather their waste) can be major allergens. Wash all bedding in hot water weekly to reduce the dust mite population, Use a damp mop and damp cloth under furniture (like the couch) and on floors, windowsills, window-blind slats, bedsprings, and other areas that act as dust mite catchers.

Upholstered Chair: Any upholstered furniture can be a mecca for allergens—like animal dander. To reduce the amount of allergens on your upholstered chair. Keep your pets off it!

Fireplace: Mold, a light and easily transportable allergen, can cling to tree bark. Before you start a fire or even bring wood inside, check the bark for mold. If it’s showing signs, ditch it.


Shower Curtains: Mold loves wet places, so your shower is a prime hot spot for this problematic allergen. Use mold-killing solutions in bathrooms and shower stalls, on bathrooms tiles, shower curtains, and around the bathtub and toilet tank.

The Air: Mold thrives year-round indoors—especially in humid places, like your bathroom. Use exhaust fans to reduce the humidity level and make it a less hospitable place for molds to live. Also, consider replacing carpets in this room with tile or linoleum.


Shoe Shelf: Mold are light and transportable, and really thrive in wet and humid places. Your closet can be a major allergy culprit, especially if you’re in the habit of tossing your soaking-wet shoes in there when you come in from the rain. The best bet: If you’ve got wet shoes or clothes, make sure they’re completely dry before you put them away.


April 14, 2014

Achoo! These cities are the worst for spring allergies

Which cities are the worst for Spring alergies?

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) ranks communities based on pollen, the number of over-the-counter and prescription medications per patient, and the number of board-certified allergists per patient in the 100 most populous cities in the continental USA. How the cities ranked:

Louisville comes out on top in a new listing of the 100 most challenging cities to live in with allergies.

Louisville has sprung to the top of the sneeze list.

Louisville is the worst city for spring allergies this year, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). The city ranked No. 5 last spring.

The foundation, based in Landover, Md., Monday releases its annual Spring Allergy Capitals report, which ranks the 100 most challenging cities to live in with allergies.

The ranking, based on 2013 data, has some surprises. Dallas leaped from No. 23 in 2013 to No. 7 this year, with a higher pollen score. New York rose from No. 43 last year to No. 13, with more people buying allergy medications.

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10 best tips to ease spring allergies

Let's clear the air: Pollen is hard to escape, but there are common-sense steps you can take

It's about that time: Temperatures rise, trees bloom and your nose starts to run. It itches, too; you keep sneezing or coughing, and your eyes won't stop watering. These are all signs of seasonal allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever and most commonly caused by tree pollen that iritates your nasal passages.

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How to deal with allergies in the spring time

(CNN) — Tomorrow (Thursday, March 20th) is the first day of spring and whether warm temps greet you or you have a chill in the air - allergy season is fast approaching. Martha shade gives us some tips on how allergy sufferers can manage this time of year.

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Allergy Relief: 9 Ways To Prepare For Spring Allergies Inside And Outside The Home

The trees are mobilizing, the grass is greener, and the flowers blooming could only mean one thing: Spring is just around the corner, and so is allergy season. The sneezing, itchy-eyes, and congestion could lead allergy sufferers to long for the days of sleet and slush, but this doesn’t mean you should remain homebound during the warmer months. If you’re itching for allergy relief this spring, here are eight ways to prepare for allergy season inside and outside the home to keep you symptom-free.

1. Avoid Allergy Triggers

One of the best ways to prevent the worsening of allergies is to avoid or get rid of the triggers as soon as possible, Dr. Ed Neuzil, a nurse practitioner and owner of the Allergy, Sinus and Asthma Family Health Center in Central Florida told Medical Daily. “People with strong grass or ragweed allergies may suffer from oral allergy syndrome, which happens when your body’s immune system mistakes proteins in certain fruits with the allergy-causing grass, tree, or weed pollens,” he said. These fruits include apples, peaches, pears, and melons. As a rule of thumb when eating fruits, munch with caution, and stop consuming if your lips begin to tingle, or if your throat gets scratchy.

2. Eat Healthily

To eat healthily could mean different things to different people. However, avoiding certain foods could help reduce your risk of allergies. Genetically engineered (GE) foods, common in the American diet, have been show to trigger allergies and asthma. A study in the journal PNAS found junk food may reduce microbial richness or healthy bacteria, which can lead to a rise in allergic and inflammatory diseases. In other words, the lack of beneficial bacteria in the intestine will allow allergies, inflammation, and autoimmune diseases to be present where they otherwise wouldn’t.

3. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight or obese could make it difficult for you to breathe, which could be detrimental if you suffer from allergies. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says people who have more fat stored around their neck are susceptible to experiencing pauses in their breathing or shallow breaths, especially in their sleep. In addition, fat that is stored in the abdomen can prevent your lungs from expanding and the diaphragm from moving downward because of the excess fat. Losing weight may help improve your breathing, and could alleviate allergy symptoms.

4. Limit Use of Allergy Medication

At the very first sign of sneezing, itching, and coughing, your first instinct may be to use medication. However, allergy sufferers are advised to limit the use of Afrin-like medications and allergy eye drops. “These are addictive to the nose and should not be used for more than 3 days in a row,” Dr. Milo F. Vassallo, allergist in New York City told Medical Daily in an email. Vassallo advises to not overdo the eye drops that “get the red out” because the ingredient naphazoline can be bad for the eyes if it’s used regularly. Instead, opt for those with only the ketotifen ingredient.

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5. Clean Your Air Conditioning and Furnace Filters

If you have your AC installed year-round, be sure to clean the filter before spring comes. It’s important to change the filters every three months and use pollen filters or screens for the window, says Vassallo. Pollen filters such as minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) tell you how well the filter can remove pollen and mold from the air — rating eight to 12.

6. Spring Clean Your Bedroom

It’s easy for dust to accumulate behind the bed, under the bed, on the dressers, and even on the ceiling fan. Simply use a wet cloth to eliminate dust and dust mite-prone areas, such as carpeting, blinds and curtains, and stuffed animals, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. As for your bed, wash everything in 130-degree water, and wipe the mattress with a damp cloth.

7. Shower and Wash Your Hair Before Bed

Practicing good hygiene is always important, especially during allergy season. Taking a shower or washing your hair before going to bed, says Vassallo, can help remove any pollen trapped in the hair and skin. Failure to do so may increase the possibility that the pollen “transports in doors and onto the pillows.” Overall, cleaning up before bed can reduce irritation.

8. Change Your Front Entrance

The snowy winter months could have made a doormat a permanent fixture in your front door, but it may not be so good when it comes to spring allergy season. A doormat that is made from natural material, such as rope or other fibers, can deteriorate and become a site for mites, mold, and fungus that can get into the house. Also, encourage your family and house guests to take off their shoes before entering the house to reduce the amount of allergens that enter.

9. Wear Your Glasses or Sunglasses Outside

The best way to protect your eyes during allergy season is to cover them by wearing your glasses or sunglasses outside. This keeps away pollen and other irritants away from this area and reduces itchiness and redness, says Yale Health. You can also wear a hat with a wide brim to also reduce pollen exposure.


By Lizette Borreli
March 14, 2014

9 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Sneezing

Cold and flu season may be winding down, but sneezing -- with allergies surely on the way -- is here to stay. We all do it, though some of us are more disruptively loud than others. It's a reflex we simply can't control. But other than the most obvious causes -- fresh pepper, anyone? -- how much do we really know about what our sneezes mean? Here are a few fun facts you probably didn't know about sneezing.

1. Your sneezes travel up to 100 miles per hour.
At least, according to some. The brave "MythBusters" guys actually timed theirs, clocking those sneezes between 30 and 35 miles per hour.

2. Their germ-ridden spray can land pretty far away.

Some guess you'll spread in a five-foot radius, others have wagered mucus lands as far as 30 feet away. At that rate, there's practically no escaping those germs!

3. We sneeze to give our noses a reboot.
In 2012, researchers figured out why, precisely, we sneeze, and what's supposed to happen when we do. ScienceDaily reported:

Much like a temperamental computer, our noses require a "reboot" when overwhelmed, and this biological reboot is triggered by the pressure force of a sneeze. When a sneeze works properly, it resets the environment within nasal passages so "bad" particles breathed in through the nose can be trapped. The sneeze is accomplished by biochemical signals that regulate the beating of cilia (microscopic hairs) on the cells that line our nasal cavities.

4. Sunlight causes many people to sneeze.

Feather, pepper, colds, flus and pesky allergies aren't the only reasons we let a sneeze rip. Theories abound to other causes, but one in particular has been scientifically studied: bright light. About one in four people sneeze in sunlight, a reaction called a photic sneeze reflex, LiveScience reported. Scientists don't entirely understand why this happens, but expect that the message the brain receives to shrink the pupils in the presence of bright light may cross paths with the message the brain receives to sneeze.

5. It's quite normal to sneeze in twos or threes.
Those "bad" particles trapped in the nasal passages and expelled by sneezes aren't exactly sprinting to the exit. It often takes more than one attempt to kick those irritants out, which can lead to multiple sneezes in a row, Everyday Health reported.

6. Your eyes close involuntarily.

Despite the panic it instills if you happen to be driving when you feel a sneeze coming on, there's not much you can do to keep your peepers open.

Part of the message the brain receives in the lead-up to a sneeze is to close those eyes. It's an involuntary reflex similar to the way your knee reacts when your doctor taps on it with that teeny-tiny hammer, NBC News reported. A sneeze can't, however, pop your eye out, like some tall tales would have you believe.

7. Your heart does not stop when you sneeze.
Despite the persistent urban legend, your heart does not skip a beat mid-sternutation (fancy word for sneezing alert!). What may happen, according to the New York Times, is that the heart rate naturally slows -- just a tad. This is due to both the deep breath most people take before sneezing and the stimulation of the vagus nerve that occurs during a sneeze. Most people don't even notice any change, and "the effect is minimal," the Times reported.

8. A sneeze is better out than in.

First, an important distinction: There's the type of stifling that occurs when you feel like you might need to sneeze, and then there's the type of stifling where the sneeze is already halfway out of your face.

In the latter case, whether you're in church or at a movie or in a lecture, stop trying to stuff that sneeze back in. While rare, it can lead to injuries, including broken blood vessels in the eyes, weakened blood vessels in the brain, ruptured ear drums or problems with the diaphragm. "I wouldn't recommend suppressing a sneeze by any method," head and neck surgeon Alan Wild, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, told LiveScience.

9. But you can quiet the urge to sneeze.
If you only have that sneeze-on-its-way tingly feeling, there are a few tricks that seem to nip a sneeze in the bud, Wild told LiveScience. Try rubbing your nose, pressing on your upper lip underneath your nose or forcing a big, deep breath out your nose.


March 14, 2014