Current Allergy and Asthma Reports

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 105–111

Nasonasal reflexes, the nasal cycle, and sneeze


DOI: 10.1007/s11882-007-0007-1

Cite this article as:
Baraniuk, J.N. & Kim, D. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep (2007) 7: 105. doi:10.1007/s11882-007-0007-1


The nasal mucosa is a complex tissue that interacts with its environment and effects local and systemic changes. Receptors in the nose receive signals from stimuli, and respond locally through afferent, nociceptive, type C neurons to elicit nasonasal reflex responses mediated via cholinergic neurons. This efferent limb leads to responses in the nose (eg, rhinorrhea, glandular hyperplasia, hypersecretion with mucosal swelling). Anticholinergic agents appear useful against this limb for symptomatic relief of a “runny nose.” Chronic exposure to allergens can lead to hyperresponsiveness of the nasal mucosa. As a result, receptors upregulate specific ion channels to increase the sensitivity and potency of their reflex response. Nasal stimuli also affect distant parts of the body. Nerves in the sinus mucosa cause vasodilation; the lacrimal glands can be stimulated by nasal afferent triggers. Even the cardiopulmonary system can be affected via the trigeminal chemosensory system, where sensed irritants can lead to changes in tidal volume, respiratory rate, and blink frequency. The sneeze is an airway defense mechanism that removes irritants from the nasal epithelial surface. It is generally benign, but can lead to problems in certain circumstances. The afferent pathway involves histamine-mediated depolarization of H1 receptor-bearing type C trigeminal neurons and a complex coordination of reactions to effect a response.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy, Room B105, Lower Level Kober-Cogan BuildingGeorgetown UniversityWashington, DCUSA