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What is Sneezing And Why Do We Sneeze?

Sneezing is simply an involuntary release of air that helps the body to get rid of irritants in our nose and throat, like allergens, dirt, and dust. A sneeze expels air forcibly from the mouth and nose in an explosive, spasmodic involuntary action. This action allows for mucus to escape through the nasal cavity. Sneezing is possibly linked to sudden exposure to bright light, sudden changes in temperature, a breeze of cold air, a particularly full stomach, exposure to allergens, or viral infection. 

Because sneezes can spread disease through infectious aerosol droplets, it is recommended to cover one’s mouth and nose with the forearm, the inside of the elbow, a tissue, or a handkerchief while sneezing. In addition to covering the mouth, looking down is also recommended to change the direction of the droplets spread and avoid high concentration in the human breathing heights.

Edward Jenner/ Pexels | Sneezing is a full-body workout that includes the throat, chest, diaphragm, and abdomen

What happens when we sneeze?

When a foreign particle enters your nose, it may interact with the tiny hairs and delicate skin that line your nasal passage. These particles and contaminants range from smoke, pollution, and perfume to bacteria, mold, and dander.

When the delicate lining of your nose experiences the first tinge of a foreign substance, it sends an electric signal to your brain. This signal tells your brain that the nose needs to clear itself. The brain signals your body that it’s time for a sneeze, and your body responds by preparing itself for the impending contraction. In most cases, the eyes are forced shut, the tongue moves to the roof of the mouth, and the muscles brace for the sneeze. All of this happens in just a few seconds.

Gustavo Fring/ Pexels | Our sneezing activity may see an uptick when we experience allergies or a cold

Sneezing, also known as sternutation, forces water, mucus, and air from your nose with incredible force. The sneeze can carry with it many microbes, which can spread diseases like the flu.

Different types of sneezes

As mentioned earlier, there are many different types of sneezes. We hear them every day. Some people have grandiose sneezes, while others sneeze as quietly as a mouse. You may have a friend or colleague who even looks to suppress their sneezes, almost keeping them internal. Some people sneeze more than once and maybe louder than others. This is often because your body responds differently to allergens depending on the type and amount.

What is the best way to sneeze?

Andrea Piacquadio/ Pexels | A sneeze can produce up to 40,000 droplets

You might have used to think it was acceptable to sneeze into your hands. But with diseases like the flu and the common cold, not to mention this year’s COVID-19 pandemic, we all now know that there are better ways to sneeze.

We’ve prepared five things you should do when you’re sneezy to help reduce the potential spread of nasty diseases.

  • Be prepared and carry tissues
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and dispose of them immediately after using in a bin (make sure you clean your hands after using them)
  • If you don’t have a tissue ready, sneeze or cough into the bend of your elbow or sleeve.
  • If you can, turn your head away from people when you cough or sneeze.
  • Clean your hands often and with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t sneeze into your hand. If you sneeze into your hand, clean your hand immediately.

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