Why do we sneeze?
We’ve distanced ourselves from a lot of people during the stressful pandemic to stop COVID-19 spread. Sneezing is one way you can transmit this virus.
Sneezing is contagious because it can release up to 40,000 droplets in the air that contain foreign particles, viruses, and bacteria.
All of us sneeze, alright, but the interesting question is why do we sneeze at all? Let’s now take a look at the basic factors that make us sneeze.
Main Factors that Cause Us to Sneeze
Sneezing is vital to the healthy functioning of an individual. It’s an involuntary release of air that serves to expel irritants in the nose and throat.
As soon as our nose tickles and senses the foreign substance, we sneeze naturally to get it out of our bodies to stay healthy. If on the first sneeze, your nasal passages aren’t cleared out, then you’ll get a second or third sneeze at once.
Although it’s not completely known why we sneeze, here are a few factors that are certain causes of this body reaction:
- External Pollutants – These include vehicle smoke, second-hand smoke, perfume, and factory chemicals.
- Irritants – Examples of these are dirt, dust, allergens like pet dander and mould and mildew spores, and pests. To remove all irritants at home, it’s necessary to clean and vacuum the house regularly.
- Dry Air – One can sneeze due to the dry air around them whether due to warm or cold weather. This is because dry air irritates our mucous membranes.
Fortunately, it can easily be remedied by switching on a humidifier set to an appropriate moisture level.
- Infections: Sneezing can be a symptom of fever, COVID-19, common cold, or other illnesses. It becomes painful if the person has a sore throat because of friction caused by sneezing.
- Pepper – You’ve seen this in cartoons and movies even. Peppers have a substance called piperine which gives them flavour; however, this irritates your nasal passages when accidentally inhaled.
Other Reasons Why We Sneeze
While rare, some people can sneeze after having a heavy meal, according to Dr Heather Moday, M.D., a private practice doctor in Maine.
This reaction is fondly called “snatiation”—the fusion of the words sneeze and satiation, which means feeling satisfied.
Another is the so-called photic sneeze reflex. This is a unique case wherein a person sneezes upon seeing a bright artificial light at home or their workplace or upon directly looking at the sun.
Having said that, this phenomenon still needs further study. Although, Clearing neuroscientist and chief medical officer Jacob Hascalovici, M.D., concludes that the cause is partially genetic, based on his research.