Why can't I stop sneezing?

12-year-old Katelyn sneezes up to 12,000 times a day

Twelve-year-old Katelyn Thornley can hardly complete a sentence without her body being shaken by a sneeze attack. The girl from Texas suffers from a puzzling phenomenon: she has to sneeze up to 12,000 times a day, sometimes 20 times in a row in a minute. Now there is a first indication of the cause.

The girl has been plagued by the constant giant for three weeks. It started in small spurts and got worse and worse. None of the six doctors who have examined Katelyn so far found the cause. They ruled out both an infection and an allergy.

"Wish I could leave my body"

In a video from CBS News, Katelyn shares how much she suffers from the abnormal sneeze reflex. "I'm in constant pain," she says. Your stomach hurts and your legs are already weak from the exertion. She hardly gets to eat because of all the sneezing. She can only fall asleep if she takes Benadryl. This is an allergy medication commonly used in the USA that dampens the urge to sneeze and makes you tired at the same time. "Sometimes I wish I could leave my body for a while to relax," she says.


To make matters worse, the girl had to endure the ridicule of her classmates at school. "But that's not funny at all," complains Katelyn. It is now impossible for her to take part in lessons, and she also had to give up her hobby of playing the clarinet. The sneeze turned her life upside down.

Neurologist has a suspicion

"It's hard to see," says the father, and it is difficult to hold back the tears. The parents are now so desperate that they hope an interview with the US broadcaster Fox26News will give them useful information about the cause of Katelyn's suffering. The neurologist Mered Parnes from Houston, who was invited to the studio as an expert, already has a thesis: It could be a tic. The attack-like occurrence of sneezing fits into the symptoms.

Tics can take a variety of forms, such as compulsive blinking, sniffling, shrugging, or grimacing. Tourette's syndrome is an extreme variant. Often times, tic develops during early school years and subsides in adulthood, Parnes said. If Katelyn's sneezing attacks really turn out to be tic, the expert has good news for her: "This can be treated relatively well with medication."

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