Why Do People Sneeze?


We’ve all had that overwhelming sensation, the feeling coming out of our noses but why do people sneeze? Is it a sign that we’re getting sick? Sometimes but not all the time. This is a very natural phenomenon and something that happens almost every day of our lives. But it’s not often discussed why. What makes us sneeze? Is it bad? Is it good?

Those may be some of your questions. Well, we will explore the different scientific explanations about why do people sneeze as well as other fun facts that you might not already know about sneezing.

What is Sneezing?

Before we get right to the different reasons as to why do people sneeze, let us first define what sneezing is.

A sneeze can be a wet and slimy mess or a little toot. It sometimes happens when someone has allergies, about to get sick, or sometimes even by just staring at the bright light. We could also sneeze when we’re anxious. You feel your body contract and get a similar sensation to when you are going to cough or vomit, except it’s through your nose.

The typical sneeze has a velocity of about a hundred miles per hour. Some people have to blast out several sneezes before finally getting any relief.

Superstitions About Sneezing

In learning the science to most things, just as much as why do people sneeze, it’s always interesting to look back at some of the common misconceptions or superstitions about it. Many years ago, when science has not developed as far as it has today, people strove to provide explanations as to why things happen. So they came up with superstitions. This is also good to know so that you will not fall victim to any false beliefs or practices especially in the modern day today when we have the facts available to us. These are the top 10 strangest superstitions.

So what did people before believe about sneezing? Here are some of their superstitions.

  • Bless You!

    One of the most common practices that some people still do even today is to say “God bless you” or bless you when they hear someone sneeze. You’ve probably said it yourself or have someone say it to you a couple of times or more. Where did this come from? What does it have to do with why do people sneeze?

    In Europe, during the middle ages, they believed that life is tied to one’s breath and expelling the breath as a sneeze was fatal. So they respond with “bless you” when they hear someone sneeze to counter this and save someone’s life. It’s pretty hilarious now if you think about it but people didn’t always have the knowledge we have today. Over time, it became a tradition and even if people no longer believe the same, they do it out of habit.

  • Eastern Asia

    In Eastern Asia, they believed that when someone sneezes, that person is being talked about by others in some part of the world. They also thought that the number of sneezes is important. One sneeze means that the discussion about that person is good and two sneezes mean that it could be negative.

  • Lucky Charm

    The French, however, believed that it could be a lucky charm so instead of saying bless you, they say “May your dreams come true” when someone sneezes. In Holland, if you sneeze three times, it could indicate that it will be sunny the next day.

  • Bad Luck

    Contrary to the French’s lucky charm, sneezing in some northern parts of India could be a sign of bad omen, especially when stepping out of the house. Or for married women, it could be that their mother-in-law was thinking about them.

There are other cultural myths and superstitions about sneezing and if you still know some people today who believe them, it’s best to share with them what you will learn about why do people sneeze. Here are other more in depth information about sneezing myths.

Why Do People Sneeze?

So let us take a step away from the myths and superstitious beliefs and now look at the real and scientific facts about why do people sneeze.

  • Clear Nasal Passages

    A sneeze is the best way for the body to clear its nasal passages. This happens so you can continue breathing clean air. Irritants like mucus coming from the cold or a flue infiltrate your nose lining and cause you to have massive inhalation. Other irritants include dust, pollen, animal dander and other pollutants.

    Your chest muscle tightens and it builds pressure. Then your tongue pushes against the roof of your mouth and forces the breath to come out fast through your nose and then the big sneeze happens. It’s the easiest and simplest explanation as to why do people sneeze.

  • Rebooting

    More recent researches suggest that it is a way for our body to reboot, just like computers do. There is a new study that shows that we need to reset out “nasal environment” every once in a while and the way to do that is by sneezing. It’s a great new information on why do people sneeze.

  • Sneezing in Succession

    You may notice that sometimes, you sneeze more than just once. Sometimes, you get more than two or three sneezes that come in quick succession. It means that your nose is trying to get rid of what’s irritating it and it takes more than one sneeze but it’s the same reason as to why do people sneeze. It just takes more.

Other Fun Facts About Sneezing

So you’ve learned the scientific explanations as to why do people sneeze. But there are other fun facts that are good to know about sneezing.

Another phenomenon that could be just as puzzling is hiccups. Here is a good explanation on what causes hiccups.

  • World Record for Longest Sneeze

    The longest sneezing spree record is 978 days by Donna Griffiths who is from Worcestershire, England.

  • The Sunshine Can Make You Sneeze

    That’s right. Bright sunlight can cause one out of three people to sneeze. These people are called “photics” which means light in Greek. Light sensitivity is an inherited trait.

So in the future, if you hear someone mention the sneezing superstitions, you can impart to them what you now know about why do people sneeze.