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What makes people sneeze?

There are many stories and superstitions connected with sneezing. Some people take sneezing as a sign of luck while some others regard it as a bad omen. In our country, sneezing in front of a person when he is leaving his house is considered inauspicious but sneezing behind his back is considered a good sign. The Romans thought that a person expelled evil spirits when he sneezed. Primitive people believed that sneezing was a sign of approaching death. When anyone sneezed, people said, “God bless you”, because it was considered a sign of danger. These are all superstitions, which do not have any truth in them. According to physiology, sneezing is just an involuntary reflex action. It is an explosive expiration through the nose and mouth stimulated by irritation in the nasal epithelium. It occurs when the nerve endings of the mucous membrane of the nose get irritated. It happens when we catch a cold. The foreign bodies that somehow manage to get into the nose can also cause sneezing. Allergies can also produce irritation. The act of sneezing is an attempt by the body to expel air to get rid of the irritating substances. Sometimes sneezing also occurs when a bright light stimulates our optic nerve. During the act of sneezing, our whole body gets a jerk because the air comes out with a great speed — around 160 kilometres per hour. The whole body vibrates and the eyes are automatically closed. After the sneeze, the body becomes fresh and light. Some people put snuff (powder of tobacco leaves) in their nose and create artificial sneezing. This is a harmful practice.

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