They mean your body is working hard to protect you.

By Meghan Overdeep
February 12, 2020

It’s easy to see how sneezes have gotten such a bad rap. They’re messy, germy, and oftentimes loud.

After the appropriate “bless you,” sneezes are pretty easy to overlook, at least as far as bodily functions go.  But a recent Good Housekeeping article made us consider whether or not we give sneezing enough respect. Sure, they sound funny, but they’re actually the result of a finely choreographed response—a complex interaction between the nose, the brain, and the muscles of your body. They’re, well… nothing to sneeze at.

To start, a sneeze is triggered not by congestion, but by an irritant like allergens, bacteria, and viruses to the mucous membranes. Your nose is a hard-working body part. Day in and day out, it naturally filters the air you breathe. A sneeze is simply its way of expelling any undesirables from your nostrils.

As Jamie Kiehm, M.D., a New York City-based allergist and immunologist, explained to Good Housekeeping, your nose is a formidable security guard to your immune system, and a sneeze is its greatest ally.

When it recognizes an intruder, the tissue that lines the nasal cavity (nasal mucosa) can coordinate a sneeze by sending a message to the brain stem. According to Kiehm, that initiates a series of nerve signals in your chest, throat, and face, telling them to sneeze and expel air through your nostrils at roughly 100mph. So, don’t hold it in! Let your body do its job.

Basically, a big ol’ ACHOO is actually a sign that your body is in healthy fighting mode. In fact, sneezing multiple times in a row means that your body is working extra hard to protect you.

So, go forth and sneeze with pride! Just don’t forget to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your elbow.