Sneezing 101: Why do we sneeze?

Young man sneezing and blowing his nose with a tissue

Achoo! Sneezing is universal: annoying and satisfying, funny and embarrassing, noisy and sometimes snotty. But do you know why  we sneeze? As you’ve probably guessed, there’s a sensible biological reason for it.

Here, we’ll answer your pressing questions on sneezing, from “what does sneezing do?” to “why do we close our eyes when we sneeze?” You’ve come to the right place to find out the details.

Why do we sneeze? Causes and mechanism

The physical process that triggers sneezing happens when the nerves in our sinuses are stimulated, this tells the body to expel air through our noses forcefully to clear them. These sinus nerves kick into action when we have allergies, nasal congestion or foreign particles like dust tickle the backs of our noses. As a protective mechanism, these nerves tell the body to expel air through our noses forcefully to clear them.

But why do we close our eyes when we sneeze? The whole process of sneezing takes some force from our bodies, and lots of muscle groups get involved, including ones in our face. This is why sneezing causes our eyes to close: it’s an involuntary response from our muscles.

Why do we sneeze when we have a cold?

It’s not just allergens or dust that make us sneeze – sneezing is also a common symptom of the common cold. But exactly why do we sneeze when we have a cold? When a cold virus infects nasal cells, our bodies react by releasing inflammatory mediators. These cause the nasal irritation that leads to sneezing.

So, that’s why we sneeze, but what happens when you sneeze?

Avoid spreading your cold to someone else and keep pocket pack tissues with you to catch sneezes and sniffles!

What does sneezing do for us?

Sneezing involves a forceful expulsion of air from the lungs that comes out of our noses and mouths. When this air comes out, it takes mucus with it. This is a good thing for our bodies, as the mucus might contain foreign particles that irritate the insides of our noses, or bacteria that threatens to harm our bodies.

There is also evidence that sneezing causes a release of endorphins, which is why sometimes a powerful sneeze gives us a strangely feel-good boost. So, to have an instant pick me up, all you need to know is how to sneeze!

However, while your body is getting rid of these germs it’s very important to keep other people around you safe from them. Keeping a packet of strong, soft tissues on hand will help you to catch coughs and sneezes hygienically, and wash your hands whenever you can.

Is sneezing healthy?

Sneezing is a natural and useful biological function, and it’s usually nothing to worry about. If you are sneezing very often or uncontrollably, you might want a remedy to help you figure out how to stop sneezing. Health shops and pharmacies will stock mild cold or allergy medication that can help to clear your nose and soothe your sinuses.

If frequent sneezing continues for more than a few weeks and you don’t know what the cause is, consult your GP for advice on how to stop sneezing and identify possible allergens.

Finally, how to sneeze if your sneeze won’t arrive

Nothing is more disappointing than feeling a sneeze building up, only for it never to happen. If you want to trigger a sneeze yourself, you could try tickling the inside of your nostril!

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