Why Does My Stomach Hurt When I Sneeze?  

If you have ever felt pain in your stomach after a sneeze, you may wonder what causes it and how to prevent it. Stomach pain during or after a sneeze can happen due to appendicitis, pregnancy, cystitis, endometriosis, hernia, ovarian cysts, or pancreatitis, among other conditions. If you have pain in your stomach from sneezing, it is essential to get it checked out by a doctor. 

What can cause stomach pain when sneezing? 

Hernia

A hernia occurs when part of an organ pushes through an opening in muscle or tissue. Hernias typically occur in the abdomen between your hips and chest. 

Symptoms of hernias include:

  • Bulging in the stomach or groin
  • Severe pain when you sneeze or cough
  • Severe pain when you lift heavy objects 
  • Pain during a bowel movement

Appendicitis

Appendicitis is the inflammation of your appendix. The appendix is a thin tube connected to your large intestine. Appendicitis is typically caused by a bacterial infection, but it can also be caused by parasites or viruses. 

Symptoms of appendicitis include:

  • Stomach pain when sneezing
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Decreased appetite

Appendicitis is a medical emergency because your appendix can burst if left untreated. If you have these symptoms, you should always consult a doctor.

Pregnancy

When pregnant, you may feel radiating pain around the stomach when you sneeze. This pain may be uncomfortable, but it is not usually a cause for concern. Causes of sneezing during pregnancy include allergies, viruses, or pregnancy rhinitis. Pregnancy rhinitis is caused by extra blood flow to the mucous membranes, which causes them to swell. Pregnancy rhinitis typically lasts 6 weeks or longer.

Cystitis

Cystitis is a condition in which your bladder is inflamed. Inflammation that causes cystitis typically originates from a urinary tract infection. 

Symptoms of cystitis include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Dark or cloudy urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain or burning when you pee
  • Lower stomach pain when you sneeze or cough
  • Feeling generally unwell

Diverticulitis 

Diverticula are small pouches that can form in the lining of your digestive tract. They are found most often in the colon. Sometimes these pouches can become inflamed, which is referred to as diverticulitis.

Symptoms of diverticulitis:

  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Tenderness in the abdomen
  • Pain in the lower left side of the abdomen
  • Pain on the right side of the abdomen for those of Asian descent
  • Pain when sneezing or coughing
  • Constipation, and less commonly, diarrhea

Endometriosis 

Endometriosis is a painful condition that causes uterine tissue to grow outside the uterus. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, endometriosis is estimated to affect anywhere from 2 to 10 percent of American women between the ages of 25 and 40. Sometimes this tissue will grow in the Fallopian tubes, the lining of the pelvis, or in the ovaries.

Symptoms of endometriosis include:

  • Pain during menstruation
  • Pelvic pain any time of the month 
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain can occur when sneezing
  • Infertility
  • Heavy or abnormal menstrual flow
  • Painful urination or bowel movements during periods
  • Other gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and constipation

Gallstones

Gallstones are pebble-like pieces of digestive fluid that form in the gallbladder, a small organ on the right side of your abdomen. Its purpose is to hold a digestive fluid called bile that is released into your small intestine. 

Symptoms of gallstones include: 

  • Sudden, severe pain that quickly gets worse in the right or center of your abdomen
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever or chills
  • Jaundice
  • Gas or indigestion
  • Pain in the shoulder or between your shoulder blades
  • Pain during a sneeze or cough

Kidney stones

A kidney stone is a mineral deposit found in the kidneys or pelvis. Pain caused by kidney stones may get worse after a sneeze or cough.

Symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • Severe pain in the abdomen
  • Severe pain on one or both sides of your back
  • Stomach ache
  • Fever or chills
  • Blood in the urine
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine 

Ovarian cysts

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form inside the ovaries due to ovulation. At least 20% of women will develop one or more ovarian cysts within their lifetime (Mobeen & Apostol, 2022).  

Symptoms of ovarian cysts include:

  • Mild to severe lower abdominal pain
  • Sharp pains in the stomach
  • Bloating or swelling of the abdomen 

Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is the result of an inflamed pancreas. Signs of pancreatitis are abdominal pain when you sneeze or cough, swelling in the abdomen, loose or foul-smelling stool, weight loss, or pain that spreads to your lower back.  

Sometimes pancreatitis requires emergency medical treatment. Seek medical care immediately if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Jaundice 
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Severe abdominal pain that gets worse with movement 

What to do when sneezing hurts your stomach? 

You can work on eliminating sneezing triggers to manage the pain in your stomach while sneezing.

Tips for reducing sneezing include:

  • Getting allergy tested to find out what your allergies are
  • Keeping the home clean and tidy
  • Investing in air purifiers
  • Killing dust mites by washing your sheets in hot water

In addition, OTC allergy medications such as Claritin and Zyrtec may reduce sneezing. Taking a decongestant may reduce sneezing if you are sick with a cold or virus.

When should you consult a doctor? 

You should always consult a doctor if you are experiencing regular pain with sneezing, regardless of how severe the pain is. A doctor can determine the cause of your pain when sneezing, prescribe medication, and order medical tests if necessary. 

How can DrHouse help you? 

DrHouse is a telemedicine app that will allow you to connect with a board-certified online doctor in less than 15 minutes. DrHouse doctors are available 24/7, 365 days of the year, to assist you with all of your medical needs.

With DrHouse, you can get medical prescriptions and prescription refills, and will gain an understanding of your health. DrHouse can quickly get to the bottom of your stomach pain while sneezing and provide you with necessary treatments.  

Key takeaways 

Sneezing is a natural reflex we have when our body comes in contact with irritants, such as allergens or pollution, or when we are fighting a virus. The act of sneezing can lead to stomach pain. 

Stomach pain while sneezing can arise from conditions such as pregnancy and appendicitis. Accordingly, you should always contact a doctor if you are experiencing stomach pain while sneezing. 

Sometimes abdominal pain when sneezing can signal the need for emergency care, so you should always reach out to a doctor who can determine the cause of your pain. A doctor can provide necessary treatments to relieve abdominal pain associated with sneezing.

Sources:

Tenner, S., Baillie, J., DeWitt, J., Vege, S. S., & American College of Gastroenterology (2013). American College of Gastroenterology guideline: management of acute pancreatitis. The American Journal of Gastroenterology108(9), 1400–1416. https://doi.org/10.1038/ajg.2013.218

DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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