Sneezing is a reflex action that we all do from time to time and that not only people do, also other mammals. Although we do not give it the slightest importance, it is actually a complex process, a physiological response by which our entire body prepares for that sudden outflow of air, which is not good to brake at all costs to avoid the ‘roar’ at certain times
A perfect defense mechanism
To understand what a sneeze is and what causes a sneeze, we must remember that, when we breathe, we inhale the air through the nose and they are the nasal mucosa those in charge of making a first filtering so that it reaches our lungs at the right temperature, with sufficient humidity and as free of impurities as possible.
When the peripheral neuroreceptorss that are part of the mucosa detect any microparticle, pathogen, such as viruses or bacteria; or an irritating substance, our defense mechanisms, to prevent it from reaching the interior of the body, they are launched.
Through the nervous system, the rejection order reaches the brain and the different elements that make up the respiratory system, including the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles, prepare for expulsion. In general, it could be said that it is the trigeminal nerve excitation, which starts from the buconasal cavity, and its ramifications, which starts the process that makes us sneeze.
Although it is clear that a sneeze is a reflex action, we also know that it is not automatic, that is, to a certain extent we can control it, trying to make it more discreet, just as we can regulate our own breathing and make it more or less deep. But, in any case, sneezing, one way or another, will occur.
What can cause them?
There are many causes that can trigger this itchy nose and throat that alters the inhalations and warns us of the imminent sneeze.
Among the most frequent reasons are the reactions in a flu or infectious process, before which the body, through sneezing, tries to get rid of excess mucus where viruses or bacteria are trapped. As a response to an allergy, they are also a common symptom. In this case, the goal of the sneeze is neutralize the action of an allergen, such as dust, pollen, mold, certain mites, etc.
Although these are common causes, they are not the only ones. Experts point out that there may also be other origins, such as some medicines in the form of corticosteroid-based sprays, powders or inhalers; exposure to environmental pollution, excessively dry air, strong and penetrating odors, such as those given off by cleaning products, or some foods, especially the spicy ones. Although less frequently, some studies suggest that certain emotions, including sexual arousal, can lead to an episode of concatenated sneezes quite inopportune.
Generally, sneezing is a natural thing that does not matter much, but when the process repeats too often, altering normal breathing, and if it occurs associated with other symptoms, such as itchy eyes, watery eyes or nasal secretions, it does not hurt consult with the specialist because, as the Spanish Society of Allergology and Clinical Immunology points out (@SEAIC_Alergy), it could be allergic rhinitis, a disease that involves inflammation of the nasal mucosa and that must be properly diagnosed and treated.
Some curiosities talking about sneezing
They make us laugh and are sometimes very embarrassing, but they are inevitable despite the fact that there are many assumptions tricks to try to stop them. Pressing a finger on the tip of the nose, holding your breath for a few seconds, or placing the tongue on the roof of the mouth, in some cases it works. Regarding whether or not to try hold back the sneeze, most specialists agree that it is preferable to let yourself go.
It is easy to notice that by covering the nose and closing the mouth, as tightly as possible, the pressure of the air that wants to come out increases and focuses on the ears, something that is not only annoying, but could cause some damage to the delicate structure that surrounds the eardrum.
As a curiosity, there are people who sneeze frequently as a reaction to a bright light reflection or strong sunlight. It is what is known as photic sneeze or Achoo syndrome. Although there are not enough studies to confirm it, some experts indicate that it could be a syndrome that affects around a 25% of the population worldwide and that it would be hereditary.
Refering to velocity to which the air leaves our lungs, determining it is quite complicated, but it is estimated that it could range between 60 and 100 kilometers per hour and that its radius of action, when spreading particles and germs, would reach several square meters. One last detail: have you tried sneezing with your eyes open and without tilting your head slightly forward? You will see that it is almost impossible.