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What is a sneeze?

Ah-choo! When you feel a sneeze coming on, there’s not much you can do to stop it—especially if you’re suffering from a cold or seasonal allergies. But have you ever wondered what is a sneeze exactly? A sneeze is a sudden burst of air from the lungs through the nose and mouth. It usually occurs when something like dust or pollen irritates the mucus membranes of the nose and throat. As a reflex, your body sneezes in order to get rid of whatever is causing the irritation. Read on to learn more about what causes sneezing and how to stop it.


What causes a sneeze?

Sneezing can be an early symptom of a cold or allergy and is the result of the inflammation of the trigeminal nerve in the nose. This nerve is linked to the “sneeze center” of the brainstem and send signals that prompt a person to sneeze. On the one hand, this reflex may help the body expel viruses before they infect the tissues of the respiratory tract. On the other hand, sneezing spreads disease by creating aerosol droplets containing the viruses that caused the infection, which may then be inhaled by healthy individuals. A single sneeze can produce up to 40,000 droplets.

What happens if you sneeze with your eyes open?

There are many superstitions related to sneezing. One common belief is that if you sneeze with your eyes open, your eyeballs will come out of your head. But this simply isn’t true. Most people naturally close their eyes when they sneeze as a reflex. The brain sends signals to your eyes telling them to close but like any reflex, this urge can be suppressed. If you keep your eyes open, your eyeballs will stay firmly planted in your head. Your eyes have muscles holding them in place (in other words, they’re not kept in your head by your eyelids). Though the blood pressure behind your eyes does slightly increase when you sneeze, it’s not enough to dislodge your eyeballs from your head. So while you should always cover your nose and mouth when sneezing to keep others from getting sick, you don’t need to worry about keeping your eyes shut.


How can I treat a sneeze?

If your sneezing is caused by allergies, you need to reduce your exposure to the allergen. This can be done by changing furnace filters, keeping pets outside the home to get rid of animal dander, traveling to areas with low pollen counts, using air filters to reduce pollen in the air, and washing sheets and towels in hot water to kill dust mites.

Sneezing can also be treated with antihistamines. If your sneezing is the result of a cold or the flu, it will likely stop once your other symptoms subside. In addition to sneezing, you may experience a stuffy nose, sore throat pain and fever. If so, over the counter medications like NyQuil Cold & Flu or NyQuil COMPLETE Cold & Flu can help you feel better. Both contain a pain reliever/fever reducer, antihistamine and a cough suppressant to help you sleep throughout the night.

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