Why Do We Sneeze?

Sneezing is an involuntary reflex. It occurs when the nasal passages relax themselves to remove irritants. It is also called sternutation. Why do we sneeze is a very interesting aspect and has been studied by various medical experts.

There are various reasons as to why do we sneeze. Here are some common reasons.

Sneeze Center and Nerve Impulses

When there is a ticklish feeling inside the nose, nerve impulses are sent to the brain. It is the job of the “sneeze center” in the brain to make us sneeze by sending out a reflex to the nasal passage muscles which make the irritants fly out of your nose! Some otolaryngologists also suggests that having sex sends off nerve impulses to this center and makes the individuals sneeze mostly after they have had sex. The link between sneezing, orgasm and sexual thoughts have been documented since the 19th century. However, the physiology behind it is still being studied.

Common Cold or Flu

The influenza virus can cause symptoms of sneezing and may make sneezing very painful and speedy. When we sneeze due to colds and flu, it is repetitive and needs to be looked into.

Rhinitis and Allergic Rhinitis

One reason as to why we sneeze is due to the allergic reaction to environmental factors like pollution, pollen or dust. Mites have also been found to be major allergens which cause sneezing. Rhinitis is caused due to the inflammation of the nasal passage. Lingering of rhinitis leads to allergic rhinitis which is more severe and causes swelling of nose and eyes.

Emotions and Environmental Factors

Interestingly, studies reveal that high emotions, sudden bright sunlight, exertion from exercise and even plucking hair off from eyebrows can cause sneezing! The facial nerve endings are linked to the sneeze center as well which may instigate sneezing. Sneezing is also triggered due to pollen and dry fallen autumn leaves. The triggering of the trigeminal nerves leads to sneezing when one experiences a ticklish feeling due to dust particles or feathers etc. Sneezing due to sunlight is called “photic sneezing”, also known as the ‘ACHOO’ Syndrome.

Satiation Reflex and Drug Withdrawal

A study on sneeze reflex: facts and fiction in 2009 also stated that sneezing may occur due to a full stomach! This, however, needs to be looked into. Opiates withdrawal may also make an individual go into a sneezing fit. The sneezing may become chronic due to the effects of the drug.