Be Careful With Sneezing

Why do we sneeze?

Sneezing is a mechanism your body uses to clear the nose. When foreign matter such as dirt, pollen, smoke, or dust enters the nostrils, the nose may become irritated or tickled. When this happens, your body does what it needs to do to clear the nose — it causes a sneeze. A sneeze is one of your body’s first defenses against invading bacteria and bugs.

Woman sneezing holding a tissue

Not all sneezes happen when foreign substances enter our nostrils. Sometimes, we find ourselves bracing for a sneeze’s impact at unusual moments.

What happens when we sneeze?

When a foreign particle enters your nose, it may interact with the tiny hairs and delicate skin that line your nasal passage. These particles and contaminants range from smoke, pollution, and perfume to bacteria, mold, and dander.

Cropped shot of a young woman smelling a flower and sneezing outdoors

Sneezing, also known as sternutation, forces water, mucus, and air from your nose with an incredible force. The sneeze can carry with it many microbes, which can spread diseases like the flu.

Why do we close our eyes when we sneeze?

Closing your eyes is a natural reflex your body has each time you sneeze. Despite common lore, leaving your eyes open while you sneeze will not cause your eyes to pop out of your head.

Young woman sneezing

Why do we sneeze when we’re sick?

Just like our body tries to clear house when a foreign substance enters the body, it also tries to eliminate things when we’re sick. Allergies, the flu, a common cold — they can all cause a runny nose or sinus drainage. When these are present, you may experience more frequent sneezing as the body works to remove the fluids.

Sick black guy sitting at couch, sneezing

Why do we sneeze when we have allergies?

Dust stirred up while cleaning may make anyone sneeze. But if you are allergic to dust, you may find yourself sneezing more often when you clean because of how frequently you come into contact with dust.

The same is true for pollen, pollution, dander, mold, and other allergens. When these substances enter the body, the body responds by releasing histamine to attack the invading allergens. Histamine triggers an allergic reaction, and symptoms include sneezing, runny eyes, coughing, and runny nose.

Why do we sneeze when looking at the sun?

If you walk out into the day’s bright sun and find yourself close to a sneeze, you’re not alone. According to the National Institutes of HealthTrusted Source, the tendency to sneeze when looking at a bright light affects up to one third of the population. This phenomenon is known as photic sneeze reflex or solar sneeze reflex.

Why do some people sneeze multiple times?

Researchers aren’t sure why some people sneeze multiple times. It may be a sign that your sneezes aren’t quite as strong as a person who only sneezes once. It could also be a sign that you have ongoing or chronic nasal stimulation or inflammation, possibly as a result of allergies.

A sneezing Caucasian man on sofa


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