Sniff, sniff
June 14, 2008 1:37 PM   Subscribe

My son's constant sniffing is driving us crazy.

My 13-year-old son is driving us crazy with his constant sniffing. Every half minute or so he sniffs deeply and loudly. This started about 2 weeks ago. The doctor couldn't find anything wrong with him and could only suggest antihistamines- but they aren't working. We've also tried cold medicine but that hasn't worked either. The sniffing is his only symptom, he's not sick or anything like that.

I'm sort of worried because my brother had this same problem as a kid, but for many years. My mother took him to an allergist for shots for years and he still sniffed. (I always thought it was just a nervous habit that he couldn't break.) I'm hoping my son's sniffing doesn't last that long! He doesn't even realize that he's doing it, but it's driving us all bonkers. Any suggestions?
posted by bluekrauss to Health & Fitness (19 answers total)
Nasal strips at night? (breathe right, etc.)

Talk to him about his sniffing?

It would drive me bonkers too...
posted by fantasticninety at 1:41 PM on June 14, 2008

Deviated septum maybe?

Failing that I'd guess it's a nervous habit.
posted by Justinian at 1:41 PM on June 14, 2008

Do some searching on "vasomotor rhinitis". I have it -- I'm always sniffly -- and believe me, it's way more annoying for me than for anyone who's listening.
posted by loiseau at 1:42 PM on June 14, 2008

Sniffling can sometimes be a nervous tic, like Justinian mentioned above. If someone becomes accustomed to sniffling a lot when they're runny/stuffy, it can become an ingrained habit that they continue to do even when it's not needed.

Ask your son if he feels like he truly needs to sniffle each time he does it, or if he's just doing it out of habit. If he's doing it out of habit, he can become more aware of it and maybe change it. But, if he truly needs to do it, then get him to another doctor who can offer a second opinion on his allergy status and maybe try a different anti-histamine (different kinds work better for some people than others).
posted by amyms at 2:21 PM on June 14, 2008

It's possible he has a tic disorder or Tourette Syndrome. Are there any other tics/movements/noises he makes, or made in the past?
posted by skammer at 2:22 PM on June 14, 2008 [4 favorites]

I had a similar issue as a kid, but instead of sniffling, I cleared my throat all the time. I couldn't control it and didn't even realize I was doing it. My family members and other adults in my life made sure to tell me how annoying it was, but nobody ever went to any lengths to figure out the reasons for the throat clearing.

As an adult, in charge of my own health care, I've gotten treatment for the variety of things that led to my post nasal drip/cough variant asthma/chronic throat clearing. It turns out I've just got really bad allergies.
posted by pluckysparrow at 2:38 PM on June 14, 2008

I had a pretty constant need to sniff for a few years until I found out I had a polyp in my nasal passage and then had it removed. I also seem to sniff like crazy when my sinuses are clogged trying to relieve the pressure.
posted by bhkart at 2:41 PM on June 14, 2008

If theres nothing medically wrong with him then have you tried telling him not to do it? Or giving him some tissues. If I sniffed when I was a child my dad would constantly be saying 'blow your nose, don't sniff'. He had a similar technique for doors, if I came into a room and left the door open, it would either be 'were you born in a barn?' or 'when is a door not a door? (when its ajar)' - 10 years later and I still shut all the doors behind me (much to my partners annoyance)
If its just an annoying habit, an equally annoying remark every time he does could clear it up.
posted by missmagenta at 2:56 PM on June 14, 2008

Can I suggest Horseradish & Garlic tablets? I use them to control my allergies and to stop the build up of fluids in my nose. I take 4 tablets every night before bed. After 3 days or so it usually starts to kick in.
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:57 PM on June 14, 2008

Id suggest taking him to an ENT (ear, nose and throat doc - also known as an otolaryngologist). An ENT can determine if your son has a deviated septum, polyps, allergies, asthma, or some lovely combination of the above (as was my case). I got a steroid treatment and antihistamine, and my constant sniffling and congestion has gotten much better.

Also, this has been mentioned dozens of times in previous AskMe threads, but look into a neti pot or at the very least, saline spray. Works wonders.
posted by landedjentry at 3:23 PM on June 14, 2008

Take him to an ENT.
posted by ruwan at 3:28 PM on June 14, 2008

An older relative had this (no idea if it was for their whole life or not) and it got pretty annoying to the point that a dinner at a quiet restaurant would be a bit awkward. It was just a habit, and he got hypnotised out of doing it. So there's one vaguely radical solution!
posted by so_necessary at 3:49 PM on June 14, 2008

Teach him to use a tissue; this will help him be aware of doing it. You can give him a tissue or say "sounds like you need a tissue" instead of "Stop sniffing." Keep trying to find an allergy or medical cause.
posted by theora55 at 5:15 PM on June 14, 2008

I second at least trying saline spray.
posted by konolia at 5:22 PM on June 14, 2008

I sniff from allergies. Anti-histamines often don't work well. Nasalcrom is a spray which works via a different mechanism (membrane stabilizer) and has helped me a lot. It takes a few days to work, though, so your son would have to know to persevere; it can also sting slightly the first few times you use it.
posted by anadem at 7:15 PM on June 14, 2008

Nasal irrigation changed my life! Seriously, it rocks. My husband's allergies were greatly reduced, and I was able to knock out a sinus infection using this technique. The Mayo Clinic web site has a nice video showing how to do it. It seems insane if you haven't done it before, but he should give it a try. Lots of discussion of this on askmefi, as landedjentry said. That's how I learned about.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:20 PM on June 14, 2008

OP here- forgot to mention that we do point it out to him (he says he doesn't realize he's doing it) and we are ALWAYS telling him to blow his nose. He does, but the problem is that most of the time there's just nothing to blow- his nose seems to be "empty." But thank you guys for the great suggestions, we will definitely try some of them.
posted by bluekrauss at 10:46 PM on June 14, 2008

Thirding saline spray. I have an issue with this and it's due to the sensation of needing to sniff/blow my nose even when there isn't anything to sniff/blow. Dryness is definitely an issue.
posted by Octoparrot at 11:25 PM on June 14, 2008

Could be allergic rhinitis. The feeling of needing to sniffle when the nose is not actually running can occur when fluids are building up in the sinuses. If it isn't in the nose, then blowing won't produce anything, but the fluids are still there and sniffling is just the body's way of trying to clear them.

If this is the problem, an antihistimine or steroid nasal spray might do better than a tablet.
posted by happyturtle at 11:09 AM on June 15, 2008

« Older Drunk Dad at hookup = no kid or damaged kid?   |   Cat vocalizations Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.