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Med Hypotheses. 2012 Apr;78(4):502-4. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2012.01.017. Epub 2012 Jan 29.

Why do we sneeze?

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Brain Research Laboratory, Discipline of Physiology, and Bosch Institute, University of Sydney, Australia.


According to textbooks, the function of a sneeze is to send a strong blast of air through the nose to remove foreign bodies. Three simple tests are described that show that the current views are wrong. The pressure developed in the mouth/pharynx of the author during a sneeze was recorded as about 135 mmHg reached in about 0.1s. A forced maximal expiration but with the nose and mouth closed produced a nasal secretion although of smaller amount than in the sneeze, in spite of a greater pressure; this is probably because the speed of tension development was much slower than in the sneeze. It is proposed that the high pressure stimulates secretory neurons via branches in the roof of the mouth. The nasal secretion dilutes irritant material in the nose and thus prevents it getting into the lungs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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