Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Honeymoon rhinitis: My love is like a red, red nose

Howard Fischer
Uppsala, Sweden

“I’m pretty sure that…you will admit that a good rousing sneeze…is really one of life’s sensational pleasures.”
– Robert Benchley (1889–1945), American humorist

Photo by Olcay Ertem on Pexels 

“Honeymoon rhinitis” is a condition that includes nasal congestion, sneezing, and rhinorrhea (runny nose) during sexual arousal or sexual intercourse.1,2 Men and women are both affected. The first report of honeymoon rhinitis appeared in 1875, in which sneezing accompanied “sexual thoughts.” There is erectile tissue in the nose and the genital organs, and this similarity has been proposed as a means of explaining why the phenomenon occurs.

Three explanations have been offered as to how this happens. A psychiatric explanation states that a sneeze represents a “forceful emission of sexual tension.” This explanation has been rejected since sneezing is not volitional. It is more of a reflex than an act under a person’s control. A proposed hormonal explanation states that nitric oxide is released into the bloodstream “to provoke genital tumescence,” and also produces the nasal symptoms, but the symptoms appear faster than the expected effect of the nitric oxide. The explanation presently accepted is that the stimulated parasympathetic nervous system (a part of the autonomic nervous system) releases acetylcholine as a synaptic transmitter. Acetylcholine also causes specialized mast cells to release histamine. Histamine is a potent allergen and is thought to be the final mediator of the nasal symptoms.3,4

In 2007, Bhutta et al5 performed a search of the literature linking sneezing and sexual thoughts or orgasm. Twenty individuals were described. Seventeen sneezed only with sexual thoughts, and three with orgasm. According to the authors, these were “two distinct entities.”

A more recent (2021) study6 recruited twenty-three people (fourteen men and nine women) with honeymoon rhinitis, who had the complete picture of rhinorrhea, sneezing, and nasal obstruction after sex. The investigators had these patients exercise with stair-climbing, expending the same amount of energy used in sexual intercourse. None of the patients developed nasal symptoms. The researchers concluded that the symptoms produced during sexual activity were “not simply exercise induced.”

Honeymoon rhinitis is an autosomal dominant condition. So although it runs in families, most people do not discuss it with their relatives. Many will not mention it to a physician either, unless specifically asked. It is probably underreported and “more common than recognized.”7,8 People with the condition may try to prevent symptoms by pre-treatment nasal steroid or nasal antihistamine spray, or with oral antihistamines.9


  1. Murat Koçyiğit et al. “What is honeymoon rhinitis?” In Cemal Cingi et al (eds), Challenges in Rhinology, Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2021.
  2. Niclole Brunod. “Honeymoon rhinitis: A curious phenomenon.” Flipper e nuvola, February 14, 2013. https://flipper.diff.org/app/items/info/5326.
  3. Mahmood Bhutta and Harold Maxwell. “Sneezing induced by sexual ideation or orgasm: An under-reported phenomenon.” J R Soc Med 101(12), 2008.
  4. Bhutta and Maxwell, “Sneezing.”
  5. Neha Mittal. “What is honeymoon rhinitis?” Disease Fix, April 23, 2021. https://www.diseasefix.com/health/what-is-honeymoon-rhinitis/.
  6. Koçyiğit et al, “What is honeymoon rhinitis?”
  7. Bhutta and Maxwell, “Sneezing.”

HOWARD FISCHER, M.D., was a professor of pediatrics at Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan.

Winter 2024



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