Why Does Mint Make Me Sneeze? Perplexing Problem Answered

Mint is a highly adaptable ingredient that is utilized in a variety of drinks, dishes, and desserts. Additionally, it is a popular element in many everyday items including gum, toothpaste, lotion, and mouthwash.

If you notice yourself sneezing whenever exposed to mint or products containing mint, you’re not alone. It’s an issue that’s more common than you may think.

Why does mint make me sneeze? The answer could be that the strong smell of mint is simply too much for some people’s senses. A rather surprising possibility that is lacking in research is that mint is another trigger to the photic sneeze reflex, a sneeze response some people have in response to bright light.

In this piece, we’ll explore what could be causing sneezing when exposed to certain herbs such as mint, if allergies to the plant are possible, and other herbs that may cause the same response.

Mint and Sneezing – What To Know

For some people, mint and sneezing go hand in hand. While it’s not something you hear about every day, the phenomenon is real and can be a perplexing problem for those who suffer from it.

What Triggers Sneezing?

Sneezing is a reflexive action that occurs when the body detects something in the atmosphere it finds bothersome. It may be triggered by various airborne irritants, including dust, pollen, smoke, or even minty aromas.

Mint May Be Too Strong for Some People

The potent scent of mint can be quite a shock to the senses, triggering an involuntary sneezing response in some individuals.

Menthol, a natural compound found in mint that gives it its distinctive smell and taste, may act as an irritant and trigger sneezing.

The cooling sensation it provides can cause irritation if inhaled directly from the plant or a product containing menthol.

May Be Related To Photic Sneeze Reflex

The photic sneeze reflex is a condition where bright lights trigger a person’s sneezing reflex. This phenomenon is also known as the Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst Syndrome (ACHOO).

The syndrome affects about one-quarter of the population to a certain degree and can be quite embarrassing in public situations.

Sneezing in response to mint may be linked to this unusual condition, perhaps due to the strong scent and menthol content, though further studies are needed.

A woman sneezing into a tissue while outside on a sunny day.

Can You Be Allergic To Mint?

Yes. Just as with any other plant or food item, you can develop an allergy to mint if your immune system identifies it as harmful and overreacts when mint is consumed causing symptoms such as coughing, runny nose, wheezing, and itchy eyes, nose, or throat.

Allergic reactions due to merely touching mint include those commonly associated with contact dermatitis, such as:

  • Redness and/or swelling of the affected area
  • Varying degrees of itchiness
  • Tenderness or pain in the area
  • Blisters or hives

Allergy To Mint Symptoms

Signs of an allergic reaction to mint include redness around the eyes/nose/mouth area, swelling of the face/lips/tongue, difficulty breathing (shortness of breath), nausea, and vomiting.

If your reaction is severe, please seek medical help right away.

Individuals with a sensitivity to one kind of mint may be vulnerable to other mint varieties as well. The intensity of reactions may vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the allergy and which type of mint is encountered.

For example, some people may experience mild reactions such as skin irritation while others may suffer more serious reactions like difficulty breathing or even anaphylaxis (a life-threatening condition).

For those with sensitivities, it is recommended to keep exposure to the herb minimal and avoid products that contain concentrated forms of essential oils derived from mint plants.

Is Mint an Irritant?

Even though allergies to mint are possible, there are many cases where people don’t actually have allergies but rather just find mint to be slightly irritating to the respiratory system.

In these cases, the irritation usually goes away once exposure stops; however, if symptoms persist, medical attention should be sought immediately since prolonged contact could lead to further complications, such as asthma attacks.

Additionally, those sensitive to mint may develop contact dermatitis if they touch mint directly or products containing mint.

It’s important to note that not everyone will experience a reaction when exposed to mint; it depends on how sensitive your body is toward certain compounds and scents.

Should You Be Concerned?

If you think you might have developed an allergy to mint, speak with your doctor about getting tested so they can properly diagnose your condition and provide treatment options accordingly.

However, a mild sneezing reaction in response to mint is usually nothing to worry about and is actually fairly common in many people.

Herbs That Make You Sneeze

Herbs are a great way to add flavor and aroma to your cooking, but some of them can also make you sneeze. Mint is but one of several herbs that can cause a sneezing response.

Basil: Like mint, basil contains menthol. When it’s chopped or crushed, the menthol is released into the air, which can cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Oregano: Oregano contains thymol, which is similar to the menthol found in mint.

Thyme: Thyme is another herb with a strong scent that could make you sneeze if inhaled too deeply. Its leaves contain essential oils that give off an intense aroma when they’re crushed.

Rosemary: Rosemary’s volatile oils can bring about an unexpected response in those who are sensitive to its aroma, often leading to a bout of sneezing when the herb is consumed or inhaled.

These herbs all contain natural compounds called terpenes which are responsible for their distinctive aromas and flavors.

Unfortunately, these terpenes can trigger allergies in certain individuals, leading to irritating symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and bouts of sneezing.

If you find yourself having a reaction after handling one of these herbs, it might be best to avoid it altogether.

Closing Thoughts

Though the root cause of why certain people sneeze when exposed to specific stimuli is unclear, it’s vital to be cognizant of potential sources and take action if needed to lower exposure.

It may be possible that mint can induce sneezing in certain people, thus it is important to assess the potential risks before deciding whether or not to cultivate this plant.