Sneezing is a reflex that occurs when the lining of our nose becomes irritated. It is not something we have control over, but happens as a result of stimuli and muscle reactions. The nose is the main organ involved in sneezing and has the important job of filtering the air that enters into the body. As the air passes through the narrow passageways of the nose heat and moisture are exchanged and dissolvable particles in the air are cleared. This is done by the lining of the nose or the nasal mucosa. This ensures that minimum irritants, bacteria or virus enter the respiratory system and causing problems.
Why Do We Sneeze?
Sneezing is the body’s way of expelling harmful substances from our respiratory system. When the nasal mucosa becomes irritated by a foreign substance your body responds by sneezing to clear the irritant. When a foreign body is causing irritation your body’s defense systems releases a chemical called histamine. This is the same chemical that causes us to itch or swell. This defense mechanism also causes liquid leakage, congestion and that itch we get before a sneeze. These signals are then transmitted to brain where the sneeze reflex is triggered. The nerve signals are then sent to the muscles of the head and neck and the lungs to expel with great force a blast of air, or a sneeze. By sneezing the nose expels the substance that is causing an immune reaction. This is an important part of the body’s defense against infectious and harmful particles in the air.
The need to sneeze can caused by a variety of things such as viral respiratory infections, filtered particles, allergens (substances that trigger allergic reactions) or physical irritants such as smoke, pollution, perfumes and cold air.
Did you know?
Some people also react to the ultraviolet light of bright sunlight. This is generally a hereditary condition and if you sneeze due to UV light you may notice that a parent or grandparent also has the tendency to sneeze when exposed to light.