Sneezing is the body’s way of removing irritants from your nose and throat. It’s also a way to get rid of the germs that cause infection.
Irritants such as bright light, strong odors and smoke can trigger a sneeze reaction. So can black pepper and capsaicin. The trick to inducing a sneeze is stimulating the trigeminal nerve.
The immune system uses chemicals to bind with receptors on the trigeminal nerve and cause the sneeze response when they come into contact with things like allergens, pathogens or viruses. The sneeze reflex is an important part of your body’s ability to protect itself from illness, but it can also spread germs to those around you, especially if you sneeze without covering your nose and mouth. A single sneeze can produce up to 40,000 droplets that may be inhaled by healthy people who could get sick from the viruses in them.
Fever is an elevated temperature that occurs when the brain resets your body’s thermostat to a higher set point, primarily in response to infection. The heightened temperature makes it harder for the bacteria or viruses to thrive. Fevers aren’t dangerous, but it’s normal to feel achy and tired from them.
If you suspect that you or your child has a fever, you can usually tell by feeling the skin. A fever typically causes sweating and shivering, which is your body’s natural way of creating more heat to fight the infection. Fever symptoms also include a headache, muscle aches and tiredness. If you have a fever, it’s important to drink lots of liquids to stay hydrated.
Everyone has a signature sneeze, but it’s possible to be mistaken for someone else. The way a person sneezes depends on the unique structure of their nose, throat and mouth, Jacob Hascalovici, MD, PhD, a clinical assistant professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, told Health. Each person’s sneeze starts when the delicate lining of the nose detects an irritant, which triggers the nervous system to send signals to the medulla. The brain then initiates a physical response: the eyes are forced shut, the tongue moves to the roof of the mouth and the muscles brace to sneeze. All of that happens in a matter of seconds.
If you’re sneezing regularly and don’t have a clear reason why, make an appointment with your doctor. It’s always better to address a new symptom than ignore it.
A cough is your body’s natural way of expulsion from your throat and airways any unwanted irritants like mucus or foreign particles. When an irritant enters your throat or airways, nerves in your throat and lungs send a signal to the brain. Then, the brain tells muscles in your chest and abdomen to contract and force air out of your lungs to clear away the irritant. The coughing response can be voluntary or involuntary and short-term or long-lasting. The occasional cough is normal and healthy, but it’s important to be aware of any changes in your frequent or intensity of coughing. It’s also worth checking with TrueCare if your cough lasts more than two weeks or is accompanied by other symptoms, like difficulty breathing.
There are many different kinds of coughs, but most often, we think of a dry cough when we hear the term “cough.” A dry cough usually means there’s not a lot of phlegm in your throat. This type of cough is common when you have a cold or the flu. You may also experience a dry cough when you’re exposed to irritants such as smoke or strong chemicals.
Wet coughs, on the other hand, are characterized by a lot of phlegm and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as congestion, a runny nose, a sore throat or a fever. If you have a wet cough, it’s important to spit out any phlegm if possible, since swallowing it can lead to a stomachache or vomiting. A wet cough can be a sign of asthma, respiratory infections, or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), which occurs when stomach acids flow backward into your esophagus and irritate the sensitive lining.
If you have a wet cough, try drinking a warm liquid such as broth or tea to help thin the mucus in your throat. You can also suck on cough drops or hard candy to help ease the discomfort and add flavor. Drinking honey, which is an antioxidant, can soothe your throat and improve function of your immune system. But don’t give honey to infants less than one year of age, as it can contain bacteria harmful to them.
The lining of the throat, called the pharynx, can be irritated in a number of ways. For example, allergies to pet dander, molds or dust may irritate the throat, as can postnasal drip and chronic sinus congestion. Smoking, drinking alcohol or eating spicy foods can also irritate the throat. A sore throat can also be a symptom of more serious illnesses such as strep throat (bacterial throat infection), mononucleosis or scarlet fever. The careclinic app will help anyone who needs a tracker for their symptoms.
A sore throat is also a common sign of viral infections, such as the cold or flu. Viral sore throats usually clear up on their own within a few days. Bacterial sore throats, such as strep throat or mononucleosis, can be more severe and long-lasting. They often cause a white coating on the tongue and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
If a sore throat lasts more than a few days or you also have a high fever, swollen glands in the neck or a rash, call your doctor or go to an urgent care clinic right away. You should also get emergency help if you have difficulty breathing.
Your doctor will look at your throat and feel your neck for swollen glands. He or she will also ask if you’ve been around anyone who is sick. You can prevent viral sore throats by washing your hands often — especially after coughing or sneezing and before eating or drinking. You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
If your sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics. For strep throat, the most commonly prescribed antibiotic is amoxicillin, which kills more types of bacteria than penicillin does. Over-the-counter pain medicines, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (Children’s Tylenol, Children’s Advil, Motrin), can also ease your pain and fever. Avoid giving young children aspirin, which has been linked to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but life-threatening condition that causes swelling of the liver and brain. Some alternative treatments, such as zinc lozenges or vaporizers, are also used to soothe sore throats. However, evidence of their effectiveness is limited, and they can interact with some prescription medications and aren’t safe for infants and young children.
Chills, or shivering, are your body’s way of raising or regulating its core temperature. They occur when your muscles contract and relax, causing your body heat to rise. The shaking movements can last a few seconds or as long as an hour. Chills without a fever are usually harmless, but high fever and chills may indicate serious illness that needs to be treated.
Often, chills occur in combination with a cold or other virus. They can also be a sign of some health conditions, such as hypothyroidism or low blood sugar. Symptoms like chills and fever can sometimes be treated at home, but if the underlying condition is severe, it is best to see a doctor as soon as possible.
A sudden chill can be caused by a cold breeze, low temperatures, or even a strong emotion. If the chills are due to a cold or virus, it is important to warm up as quickly as possible. Drink a lot of fluids, and eat hot food or soup to keep your body temperature up.
If your chills are accompanied by a fever, you can use over-the-counter fever reducers to ease the discomfort. In addition, taking medication to treat the underlying cause of your infection should help to alleviate your chills.
Chills can also be a sign of some medical conditions, such as anemia or anxiety. Anemia occurs when your body does not have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to your tissues. It can be caused by chronic illnesses like cancer or heavy menstrual cycles, as well as medications or intense physical exercise. If you have anemia, a doctor will prescribe iron supplements to address the problem.
Anxiety or fear can also cause your body to shake, a response called shivering. While shivering is normally involuntary, it can be triggered by some emotional situations and can also be a symptom of some health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or malaria. If your chills are accompanied by other symptoms, like confusion or trouble breathing, seek immediate medical attention.