Why do people sneeze?

Posted by: monty - 17/03/2010 20:39:43

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So, why do we sneeze? “Sneezing is basically ‘nature’s broom,’” says Dr. James Banks, an allergist and immunologist in private practice in Arnold, Md. “It is a way our bodies purge foreign matter that has invaded our noses.” Particulates are the usual suspects, including dust and common allergens like pollen or animal dander. Sneezing also expels unwelcome germs when we are sick, which has given rise to the sanitary concerns about honking away in public places. And for good reason: a single sneeze can produce some 40,000 aerosolized droplets containing a hefty amount of infectious organisms, according to a 1998 article in the American Journal of Infection Control. It’s not just allergies and illnesses that can produce that familiar tickling in the nose.

Banks explains: “People sneeze for a lot of reasons other than just getting something up their noses. Clinically speaking, we consider sneezing a non-specific reaction, because there are a lot of sources that irritate.” For example, some people experience a round of sneezing after a large meal, which has led to the coining of the term snatiation, a combination of sneeze and satiation. There is also a phenomenon with a known genetic basis called the photic sneeze reflex, which causes about one-third of people to sneeze from looking at a bright light source, such as the sun. Sigmund Freud has even speculated on the kinky psychological origins of an otherwise innocuous sneeze.

Posted by: Prof Ro - 17/03/2010 20:43:04

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