The ENTs and Allergist at Arkansas Otolaryngology Center describe a sneeze as the body’s response to a foreign particle irritating the nasal mucosa. The function of sneezing is to get rid of the mucus containing the foreign particles and cleanse the nasal cavity. When the delicate lining of your nose experiences the first tinge of a foreign substance, it sends an electric signal to your brain. This signal tells your brain that the nose needs to clear itself.
Like our bodies try to clear house when a foreign substance enters the body, our systems work 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. *ACHOO*
Sneezes can travel up to 100 miles per hour. This is why when some people sneeze it causes them to break a rib. This is rare, but the speed your body is expelling air is even sometimes dangerous to itself!
The spray from your sneeze lands further than you think. Estimations for how far sneeze spray travels is anywhere from a 5 to 30 feet radius from where you sneezed. This just reinforces that you should cover your nose with your elbow or a tissue when you sneeze.
Sneezing reboots our noses. Much like a finicky computer, our noses need a “reboot” when overwhelmed. This biological reboot is triggered by the pressure force of a sneeze. A sneeze is brought about by biochemical signals that regulate the beating of the microscopic hairs in the nose called cilia, that line the nasal cavity.
Sunlight causes people to sneeze. Some people have noticed that they sneeze more in bright sunlight. This is not something they are making up either! 1 in 4 people actually sneeze in reaction to sunlight. There is even a name for this phenomenon. It is called the “Photic Sneeze Reflex.” There is some debate why this reaction happens. Some scientists believe that the message to the brain that tells it to shrink the pupils in the eyes may cross paths with the message the brain receives to sneeze.
There is a reason we usually sneeze in two’s and threes. Sometimes particles that are trapped in the nasal passages need a little extra help to be expelled from the nose. More often than not it takes more than one attempt to get those irritants out, which is why we sneeze multiple times in a row.
Sneezing can be funny to many of us because each person has their own unique sounding sneeze. However, people who suffer from seasonal allergies, may not find sneezing all that funny. If you are experiencing chronic sneezing it might be time to see your local otolaryngologist and allergist. Contact Arkansas Otolaryngology Center to schedule an evaluation with an ENT or Allergist near you!