I’m sneezing more these days than I have in the past. I suspect it’s because my chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is becoming more pronounced as I age. Or maybe there’s just more pollen in the air—but that seems unlikely in the dead of winter. Whatever the reason, the increase got me to thinking about the sneeze. What is it and do I need to worry?
On the internet, I found a wealth of information on the sneeze. It’s defined as “a sudden involuntary expulsion of air from the nose and mouth due to irritation of one’s nostrils . . . Sneezing is a mechanism your body uses to clear the nose. When foreign matter such as dirt, pollen, smoke, or dust enters the nostrils, the nose may become irritated or tickled. When this happens, your body does what it needs to do to clear the nose—it causes a sneeze. A sneeze is one of your body’s first defenses against invading bacteria and bugs.”
So 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.”
So sneezing is healthy. It clears my nasal passages of invading contaminants and mucus. It helps keep my breathing clear and unobstructed.
I sort of like sneezing, so now I can enjoy it knowing it is doing my body good. You can, too. You’re welcome.