I have a fifteen-months-old nephew who reacts strongly when people around him cough or make unwanted loud noises (i.e. sneeze). His reaction is often staring at the whoever made the noise, screaming protesting and crying, even if his mother does that.

Should we be worried about his mental health? or is there anything special we should do to prevent future problems?

  • 1
    Ask a doctor/professional?
    – Batavia
    Oct 25, 2017 at 19:24
  • @Batavia Unfortunately in Iran, where we live, there is no toddler mental health professional/doctor. Psychologist here only know how to discourage homosexuality, marriage problems or any other thing which will lead to committing suicide by using drugs slowly. Of course I don't want my nephew (neither his parents) to die this way. But of course, there are good doctors here, too, but they're expensive, though. If the problem gets more serious, we surely will attend one.
    – Ehsaan
    Oct 27, 2017 at 7:53
  • Why are all of these answers downvoted...?
    – MAA
    Oct 27, 2017 at 12:50
  • @MAA - Who knows? Only the DVer. Oct 27, 2017 at 14:02

6 Answers 6


If you just startle him when someone sneezes loudly then looking at them, or even crying, seems like a reasonable response. Hey you just scared the kid.

If there are any other reasons to doubt his mental health you should see a professional. Are there any of the expected milestones he is missing (like first steps and/or first words). Those are certainly signs to see a professional.

If it's just oversensitive to sound for example. Then still see a professional but personally i wouldn't be worried if my kid looked at me every time i sneezed (the screaming and crying really depends on how inconsolable they are. and what other reasons you have to suspect anything)


Your child may simply be sensitive to loud, unexpected noises. He might even be overly sensitive, but one behavior does not a mental illness make; if this is the only thing that concerns you at 15 months, I'd just watch and wait.

Of course, since you're concerned, if he's in the US, he has a 15 month and an 18 month visit with his pediatrician. Bring up your concerns then.


I think it's worth remembering that infants and toddlers, as much as they may be small people, are experiencing new things every day.

Them being startled by something and overreacting to it is pretty normal. They don't understand what's going on and they don't know what the "correct" way to react is. A few weeks ago, my husband pulled out his trumpet to see how are 14 month old would react to it. He played a single note and Ben screamed, started crying and ran off. Later that same day, even the sight of the trumpet caused Ben to cry and run. Trumpets are loud. If you've never encountered one before, having one blasted in your vicinity when you don't even know what they do can be scary.

Even as an adult, extremely loud sneezes and other noises when I don't expect them may startle me. Sure, I get over them quickly, but I'll probably complain at the source of the sneeze for not trying to make it quieter (usually the source is my spouse).

When it happens again, comfort the child, tell them that it's OK. Identify the noise ("Mommy just coughed, it's OK. You cough, too!") and be calm. Show them that it's nothing to be fearful of by not reacting negatively to it. Don't make it traumatic for them by yelling at them for their reaction. With enough exposure, the little one should get used to it (as much as one can) and have a less extreme response.

If you are really worried, please see your pediatrician for advice. Don't forget that children may hear more than you do, so they may be reacting to something you aren't sensitive to. As we age, we lose our ability to hear certain frequencies.


My oldest reacted this way to sneezing/nose blowing from about 9-10 months, but then he got used to and over it. So my question would be: how long has it been going on? A week? A month? Three months? If towards (or past!) the three month end of things, then it's definitely worth addressing with the pediatrician - I had a student once who had a physiological auditory sensitivity, and this was one of the early signs his parents had to indicate it. However, if it's only been a few days/weeks, and he doesn't otherwise seem to be suffering, maybe just wait and see if he gets used to it.

Note: if you are concerned, it is always best to call the pediatrician and ask whether it's something you should be worried about - most are available by phone even after hours, and they will be much more qualified to speak to any possible medical causes/ramifications than anyone on this site (since they've actually seen your child). Don't worry about them saying "it's nothing," because on the off chance it isn't, better safe than sorry.


My children didn't have that but my 6 month nephew developed a similar response to brushing teeth or hair. Whenever his mother did it, he would burst out crying but when his dad brushed his teeth... nothing.

It's a phase. As with all phases it has to run its course. Be careful (stifle a sneeze if it would save you a 20-minute tantrum) but don't make too much out of it and he will stop. I would be more worried if he didn't respond at all to loud noises.

If you're unsure, you could try a few things. Try to see how he crawls. Does he reply by moving his head? Does he try to find things when you hide them? Is he affectionate toward those around him?

A couple of behavior markers that could help but as always, if you're unsure, you need to seek medical help.


It's normal for kids to jump and have that reaction

You may consider going to a doctor to test hearing. An ear infection or nerological disorder may contribute to discomfort with special sounds. Ear infections are common.

  • A hearing test is for decreased sensitivity to sound, not increased. Ear infections rarely cause increased sensitivity to sound. General irritation, sure. Please don't dispense medical opinions. They're a dime a dozen, and usually worth about that much. Jan 14, 2018 at 17:22
  • I recommend visiting a doctor for a hearing exam. There are many conditions that could cause this issue. Hearing infections are common in younger children.
    – user30334
    Jan 14, 2018 at 19:36
  • But there is no such thing as a "hearing infection". This is what I'm talking about: bad medical advice can be costly for no reason at best, and dangerous at worst. Please do not try to provide it. Jan 14, 2018 at 20:04

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