It’s here. A runny nose, sneezing, and a dry throat. It’s clearly a cold, and it’s not fun. As I sit, blowing my nose and sneezing in duplicate, I am wondering what really happens when you sneeze. I mean, it’s a really weird feeling, and the anticipation of an oncoming sneeze is even more annoying than the sneeze itself. Some say a sneeze is the closest thing to death, and that the heart actually stops beating. Others claim a sneeze travels at the speed of 100 miles per hour. Inquiring minds want to know, so I set out to seek the truth about sneezes.
Apparently the Myth Busters were intrigued by this concept too. They clocked their sneezes using an ultra high speed camera, and found that they traveled close to 35 mph, a far cry from the 100 mph. we hear about. As for the distance that the snot traveled, neither one of them flung the phlegm farther (say that fast 5 times!) than 17 feet.
Regardless of how fast and furious our body fluids travel during a sneeze, it’s important to cover your mouth, ideally with your arm. If you use your hand to cover your mouth, please wash it immediately, because that’s how the germs get spread. (Duh.)
Scientists attribute the sneeze as the nose’s way of “rebooting. ” The pressure caused by the sneeze resets the environment in the nasal passages, allowing the bad particles we breathe in,to be trapped.
The heart does not stop during a sneeze, but it does slow down. While this could cause you to miss a beat, it is generally unnoticeable.
A sneeze starts in your nerves, which explains why you never sneeze in your sleep. Those sneeze triggering nerves go to sleep too. And just like the involuntary kick induced by tapping on the knee with a tiny mallet, our eyes close when we sneeze.
It’s common to sneeze in multiples. It often takes a few tries to get those bad particles out, making us ah-choo in twos.
Sneezes are a nuisance, but they have their place. Trying to stop them is unhealthy, and can lead to ruptured blood vessels and ear drums. If you wish to quiet a sneeze, try pressing on the area just above the upper lip, taking a deep breath, or rubbing your nose.
By the way, Gesundheit, a German phrase often uttered after someone sneezes means “good health.”
photo: Glasshouse Images