Why Do We Sneeze?

Here’s what causes those sudden, uncontrollable nose-splosions.

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You’re in the middle of a conference call when all of a sudden you get a tickle in your nose. Oh no, it’s coming. You feel the pressure and the tingle building, then all of a sudden … AAACCCHHOOOO!! The meeting stops for a brief moment, people offer their blessings for good health, and the meeting continues.

This scenario may seem all too familiar. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, time essentially stops when you sneeze. Sneezes may be a bit annoying and #extra, but for a good reason.

What Is a Sneeze?

A sneeze is your body’s way of getting harmful irritants out of your nose. The reason it’s so #extra is because your body has to use pure force to get the foreign invader out. Here’s how sneezes work:

When an unwelcome guest tickles your nose, your brain gets a message. Your brain then tells your body to armor up to get that visitor outta there. Many of your muscles, including your abdominal muscles, chest muscles, diaphragm, and even your eyelid muscles, team up to send that irritant flying.

Even though the force is powerful, sometimes one sneeze is just not enough. If your brain senses that the first go around didn’t get rid of the unwelcome visitor, then you might sneeze two or three more times.

What Can Cause a Sneeze?

Sneezes can be caused by many things—some of which are still a mystery to researchers. Some causes of sneezes include:

  • An allergy to pollen, mold, dander, or dust

  • Breathing in certain medicines (such as corticosteroids)

  • The common cold or the flu

  • Other airborne irritants, such as powder or air pollution

  • Bright light (like the sun)

  • Spicy foods

  • Strong emotions

  • Or orgasms

Sneezes may interrupt your movie or business meeting, but they’re important—they’re there to keep you healthy. If your achoos are affecting your quality of life, however, see a doctor. They can help you find relief from your excessive sneezing.