BY: NADIA ZAIDI
Sneezing is one of the most effective (and satisfying) bodily releases, yet it’s something we don’t give second thought to. However, a recent bout of sniffles had me wondering about what happens up there, and how our body reacts to a sneeze. So let’s get into it, shall we?
Firstly, the purpose of a sneeze is to expel dust, irritants and other foreign particles from your airway. The most annoying thing about a sneeze is that feeling you get before it dissipates.
Have you ever sat beside someone who just sneezed? Somebody pass me a Lysol wipe so I can rid myself of this stranger’s flying mucus please! There are different types of sneezers, and here is how I break them down:
Types of sneezers:
- The I’m too dainty and polite to actually sneeze so I’ll just whistle through my nose sneezer. Ugh. Spare us all. You sound like a Disney character who’s getting their helium-filled bodies slowly pinched out of them. Just sneeze, people!
- The spreading it everywhere and don’t care sneezer. Ever heard of Kleenex? Or how about an ‘excuse me?’ For some reason these people don’t seem to understand personal space or etiquette. Let’s be honest. I think I secretly envy their lack of caring.
- The I’m about to scare the beejeezus out of you without warning sneezer. You’re sitting quietly on your phone, when suddenly a cross between a scream and a weird sound disrupts your calm. What was that? You look beside you and it was someone sneezing. Hold on while I wait for my pulse to restart please.
So what happens during a sneeze?
The chest muscles compress your lungs and this sends a gust of air upwards. At the same time, the throat tightly closes and sends this air shooting through the nose at speeds as high as 100 miles per hour. Realistically, it’s between 30 and 40 mph, but even then. Wow. Talk about power.
And then there is the spray. There are between 2,000 to 5,000 bacteria-filled droplets that come out of your nose and mouth when you sneeze. That’s really comforting, isn’t it?
What about the way our faces react or contort. Why is it that we close our eyes when we sneeze? Well, it’s simply a reflex that we can’t avoid.
Sneeze etiquette and the history of “God bless you”:
Is saying “bless you” out dated? Unnecessary? And why do we bless people when they sneeze? If there is one thing that I’ve always wondered, it is why we say bless you after someone sneezes. Sure, it’s the polite thing to do, but where did it come from?
Actually, there isn’t one set answer. The Greeks and Romans viewed sneezing as a sign of good health and overall wellness. They would express their positive wishes by saying “live long,” or “May Jupiter bless you.” It also originated from schools of thought that believed the devil could steal someone’s soul when they sneezed.
Another belief surrounding the idea is that your soul would literally escape you as you were sneezing, and to avoid that, bless you was your best bet. But originally, it comes from Pope Gregory the Great who, during the plague of AD 590, ordered that everyone who sneezed be blessed immediately. The idea was that blessings would keep sneezers healthy, and that the bodily function wasn’t a sign they’d caught the deadly illness.
Today, even though we’re not warding off the plague or worried that people will sneeze away their souls, it still remains a common staple of everyday life. Just make sure the next time you sneeze you have a kleenex.