Why do we sneeze?

Published: 23-10-2023

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Sneezing is a physiological reaction that involves the sudden expulsion of air from the nose and mouth, under the influence of extra pressure in the chest, in order to remove the cause of irritation of the nasal mucous membrane. What makes you sneeze? What happens in your body when you sneeze?

In short, sneezing is your body’s way of getting rid of foreign particles irritating your nasal mucous membrane. Sneezing may seem like a trivial thing but it is a complex process that involves various organs and parts of your body, including the brain, diaphragm, abdominal muscles, throat and eyelids. It is difficult to control. Your body reacts spontaneously, without conscious awareness. The expulsion of air through the nose is rapid and difficult to stop. In any case, it is not advisable to hold back a sneeze because, due to the speed of the air flow and the high pressure that is created, it may result in serious internal injuries.

Allergy sufferers know well how bothersome sneezing can be. Contact with an allergen may cause a series of sneezes accompanied by other symptoms. Unusual reactions from your body should prompt you to perform a more thorough examination to determine the source of the problem. Allergic rhinitis is caused by pollen, animal dander, certain foods, dust or other factors. Allergies are often accompanied by a watery runny nose, tearing, irritation of the eyes and mucous membranes of the oral cavity, etc. Antihistamines usually relieve allergy symptoms.

Common causes of sneezing also include colds and flu. A stuffy nose, thick nasal discharge, high temperature (fever), headaches, cough and frequent expulsions of air from your nose are signs and symptoms of a developing infection. In this case, you should start treatment as soon as possible to avoid complications that are more difficult to treat.

Infections and allergies are the most obvious causes of sneezing. But there are also less common ones. These include:

— anatomical abnormalities of the nose;
— ACHOO (Autosomal dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst) syndrome (also known as photic sneeze reflex, sun sneezing or photosneezia), which is sneezing when exposed to a bright light;
— sudden changes in temperature (e.g., after leaving a heated room in the winter);
— foreign bodies in the nose or intense odors that irritate the mucous membranes (e.g., spices, cigarette smoke, strong perfume);
— dry air;
— emotions (e.g., fear, excitement).

Sneezing is completely normal and nothing to worry about if you sneeze occasionally. However, if you experience any symptoms of concern (e.g., series of sneezes or chronic sneezing), you should seek medical advice immediately. Even though sneezing has a positive effect on your health (it is a defense reflex), never ignore worrying signs.


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