Cold and flu season may be winding down, but sneezing – with allergies surely on the way – is here to stay. We all do it, though some of us are more disruptively loud than others. It’s a reflex we simply can’t control. But other than the most obvious causes – fresh pepper, anyone? How much do we really know about what sneezes mean? Here are a few fun facts you probably didn’t know about sneezing.
1. Your sneezes travel up to 100 miles per hour.
The brave “MythBusters’ guys actually timed theirs clocking those sneezed between 30 and 35 miles per hour.
2. Their germ-ridden spray can land pretty far away.
Some guess you’ll spread in a five-foot radius, others have wagered mucus lands as far as 30 feet away. At that rate, there’s practically no escaping those germs.
3. We sneeze to give our noses a reboot.
In 2012, researchers figured out why, precisely we sneeze and what’s supposed to happen when we do. Science Daily report: Much like a temperamental computer, our noses require a “reboot” when overwhelmed, and this biological reboot is triggered by the pressure force of a sneeze. When a sneeze works properly, it resets the environment within nasal passages so “bad” particles breathed in through the nose can be trapped. The sneeze is accomplished by biochemical signals that regulate the beat of cilia (microscopic hairs) on the cells that line our nasal cavities.
4. Sunlight causes many people to sneeze.
Feather, pepper, colds, flus and pesky allergies aren’t the only reasons we let a sneeze rip. Theories abound to other causes, but one in particular has been scientifically studied; bright light. About one in four people sneeze in sunlight, a reaction called a photic sneeze reflex. Scientists don’t entirely understand why this happens, but expect that the message the brain receives to shrink the pupils in the presence of bright light may cross paths with the message the brain receives to sneeze.
5. It’s quite normal to sneeze in twos or threes
Those “bad” particles trapped in the nasal passages and expelled by sneezes aren’t exactly spring time to the exit. It often takes more than one attempt to kick those irritants outs, which can lead to multiple sneezes in a row.
6. Your eyes close involuntarily.
Despite the panic it instills if you happen to be driving when you feel a sneeze coming on, there’s not much you can do to keep your peepers open. Part of the message the brain receives in the lead-up to a sneeze is to close those eyes. It’s an involuntary reflex similar to the way your knee reacts when your doctor taps on it with that teeny-tiny hammer. A sneeze can’t, however pop your eye out like some tall tales would have you believe.
7. Your heart does not stop when you sneeze.
Despite the persistent urban legend, your heart does not skip a beat . What may happen, according to the New York Times, is that the heart rate naturally slows – just a tad. This is due to both the deep breath most people take before sneezing and the stimulation of the vagus nerve that occurs during a sneeze. Most people don’t even notice any change, and “the effect is minimal,” the Time reported.
8. A sneeze is better out than in.
First an important distinction: There’s the type of stifling that occurs when you feel like you might need to sneeze, and then there’s the type of stifling where the sneeze is already halfway out of your face. In the latter case, whether you’re in church or at a movie or in a lecture, stop trying to stuff that sneeze back in. While rare, it can lead to injuries including broken blood vessels in the eyes, weakened blood vessels in the brain, ruptured ear drums or problems with the diaphragm.
9. But you can quiet the urge to sneeze.
If you only have that sneeze-on-its-way tingly feeling, there are a few tricks that seem to nip a sneeze in the bud. Try rubbing your nose, pressing on your upper lip underneath your nose, or forcing a big, deep breath out of your nose.