Simple Science

Cheers! When Do We Sneeze?

Backyard kids - 1Photo by quinnums

For some strange reason, sneezing was for a long time considered as an act that is not only physical, but many stories and legends gave it a special meaning.

In fact, sneezing is mechanism which draws air from the nose and mouth. It is a reflex action beyond our control, and occurs when the nerve endings in the nose membrane are irritated or, although it is strange, when bright light irritates the optic nerve.

Stimulus which causes sneezing may occur due to swelling of the mucous membranes of the nose, or by the presence of a foreign body that somehow gets into the nose, and may be a result of allergies. Sneezing is an attempt to break free of the air caused by irritation.

Since ancient times the world is looking for something unusual in sneezing – a kind of prophecy or sign. The ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians believed that sneezing is warning of danger and that it announces future. We now cannot understand why we, when someone sneezes, say “cheers”, but it is, in all likelihood, in connection with the beliefs of old. Primitive people thought that sneezing predicts impending death, which is why we to a man who sneezed, which means, he is in danger, say “cheers”.

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