Five weird and interesting facts about sneezing

With fall allergy season upon us, the sneezes, stuffy noses and seasonal symptoms will soon be here in full force. Of them all, a good sneeze can stop you dead in your tracks, but for a bodily function so abrupt and random most of us rarely stop to think about what exactly happens in the body every time you reach for a tissue.

Here are a few facts you may not have known about this everyday activity:

1. A sneeze is your nose "rebooting"

According to research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, researchers sought to answer why humans sneeze by comparing the nasal cells of humans and mice and how each clear the substance from their nasal cavities. The study authors concluded that a sneeze is the nose rebooting, similar to how a computer restarts. A sneeze is a nerve transmission that tells the brain that there is something in the nose that needs to be cleared out, thus triggering the immune response.

2. Sneezing is impossible during sleep

Have you ever wondered why you aren't jarred awake in the middle of the night with a sneezing fit? When you go to sleep, those same nerves that trigger sneezes and help expel pollen, dust and dander from your nasal cavities get some shut-eye as well. These nerves will remain dormant until you wake up and start your day.

3. Sneezing can alter your heartbeat

The old myth that your heart stops when you sneeze is untrue, but sneezing could change the rhythm of your heartbeat in some cases. A sneeze is a result of a change in pressure in our chests, which can alter blood flow and the overall rhythm of your heartbeat. While it may feel like your heart flutters or skips a beat during a sneeze, it is still working properly!

4. Sunlight can make you sneeze

Pollen, dust and other particulates aren't the only sneeze catalysts. About 1 in 4 people have a reaction to sunlight called a "photic sneeze reflex." Scientists are split over the direct cause of this reaction, but many expect that the same message that the brain receives to shrink the pupils in the eyes when exposed to bright light may cross paths with the message the brain receives to sneeze. If you find yourself sneezing in the sun, this may be why!

5. Sneeze particles can travel up to 5 feet

There's a reason why your parents told you to cover your mouth while sneezing since childhood! A sneeze moves with such force and the mucus particles are so tiny that it's very likely they can travel across a room, often 5 feet or more in front of you. Ideally, use a tissue or your elbow to block the spray from a sneeze so you don't spread germs on your hands to doorknobs and other surfaces that others could come into contact with.

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