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For other uses, see Sneeze (disambiguation).

A sneeze (or sternutation) is a semi-autonomous, convulsive expulsion of air from the


Sneezing occurs when a particle (or sufficient particles) passes through the nasal hairs
and reaches the nasal mucosa. This triggers the production of histamines, which reach the
nerve cells in the nose, which then send a signal to the brain to initiate the sneeze. The
brain relates the initial signal and creates a large opening of the nasal cavity. In certain
individuals, sneezing can also be caused by exposure to bright light. This is called the
photic sneeze reflex.

In recent years studies have shown that stifling or holding back sneezes can cause
damage to the sinuses as well as the inner ear. This is due to the back flow of air pressure
which can be very painful. The symptoms of this can include tinnitus, or reduced high
frequency hearing, and in extreme cases, rupturing of the ear drum.

Sneezes spread disease by producing infectious droplets that are 0.5 to 5 µm in diameter.
About 40,000 such droplets can be produced by a single sneeze.[1]


• 1 Beliefs and cultural aspects

o 1.1 Onomatopoeia
o 1.2 Traditional responses to a sneeze
• 2 Cultures
• 3 Islamic Sneeze
• 4 See also
• 5 Notes
• 6 References
• 7 Further reading

• 8 External links
[edit] Beliefs and cultural aspects
In 410 BC the Athenian general Xenophon gave a dramatic oration exhorting his fellow
soldiers to follow him to liberty or to death against the Persians. He spoke for an hour
motivating his army and assuring them a safe return to Athens until a soldier underscored
his conclusion with a sneeze. Thinking that this sneeze was a favorable sign from the
gods, the soldiers bowed before Xenophon and followed his command. Another divine
moment of sneezing for the Greeks occurs in the story of Odysseus. Odysseus returns
home disguised as a beggar and talks with his waiting wife Penelope. She says to
Odysseus, not knowing to whom she speaks, that he will return safely to challenge her
suitors. At that moment their son sneezes loudly and Penelope laughs with joy, reassured
that it is a sign from the gods.

According to popular belief[citation needed], especially in Japanese culture, a sneeze without an

obvious cause is a sign that someone is talking about you.

[edit] Onomatopoeia

Some common English onomatopoeias for the sneeze sound are "achew!", "atisshoo" and
"achoo". The first syllable corresponds to the sudden intake of air, the second to the
sound of the sneeze. In Cypriot Greek, the word is 'apshoo'. (This is also the name of a
village, which is the cause of much mirth.) In French, the sound "Atchoum!" is used, and
in Japanese, "Hakushou!"

[edit] Traditional responses to a sneeze

In English-speaking countries, it is common for at least one person to say "God bless
you" (or more commonly just "Bless you") after someone sneezes. The origins and
purpose of this tradition are unknown (one common myth is that in medieveal England, a
sneeze was believed to be the soul trying to escape the body, and saying "Bless you"
forced it back in), although several competing explanations are given. Today, it is said
mostly in the spirit of good manners.

[edit] Cultures
In many cultures words referencing health or good health are used instead of "Bless you".

• The German word "Gesundheit" is occasionally said after a sneeze.

• The Dutch usually say "gezondheid" (literally translated means health) or "proost"
(which means cheers, see below).
• In Spanish, one says "Salud," which means "(to your) health".
• In Finnish language, "terveydeksi", which also means "to your health"
• In Romanian one says "Sănătate!" ("health") or "Noroc!" ("Luck").
• In Hebrew ‫ — לבריאות‬labri'ut or livri'ut — for (the) health.
• In Norway, Sweden and Denmark, one says "prosit", Latin for "may it advantage
• The appropriate response in Russian is "будь здоров(а/ы)," which means "be
• In Armenia, one says "առողջություն" (aroghjootyoon).
• In Turkish, "Cok yasa" which means "live long", which in turn is responded with
"sen de gor" (you see too) indicating the person wishing them to live long see
them live as long.
• In Arabic (Jordanian dialect) bless you is ‫صحة‬ َ (Sahha) which has probably
evolved from Sihha ‫صحة‬ ِ meaning health! Also, one may say Nashweh ‫ نشوة‬which
means ecstasy. The response is either thank you (‫ شكرا‬Shukran) or Tislam/ Taslam
(in different accents)‫ تسلم‬which means 'may you be kept safe'.
• In French, after the first sneeze, one says "à tes souhaits!" which means "to your
desires". If the same person sneezes again, the second response is "à tes amours!",
which means "to your loves."
• In Chinese, the response is traditionally "(Be) 100 years old" (百岁) which, like
"Bless You", an abbreviation of (祝你长命百岁) "Wish you a long life of a
hundred years."
• In Eastern countries such as China or Japan, there is a superstition that if you talk
behind someone's back, the person in question will sneeze; the person can tell if
something good is said (one sneeze), something bad is said (two sneezes in a
row), or if they are catching a cold (more sneezes).
• In Indian culture - specially in northern parts of India - it's a common superstition
to consider a sneeze before starting out for any work as a sign of impending bad
interruption. People would pause, drink water or break their rythm before
resuming work to counter this.
• On the island of Honshu in Japan the local expression is "Sumimasen".

[edit] Islamic Sneeze

The practice among Muslims is based on the Prophetic Traditions. Al-Bukhaari (6224)
narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Islamic prophet, Muhammad said: “When one of
you sneezes, let him say, ‘Al-hamdu-Lillaah (Praise be to Allaah),’ and let his brother or
companion say to him. ‘Yarhamuk Allaah (May Allaah have mercy on you).’ If he says,
‘Yarhamuk-Allaah,’ then let (the sneezer) say, ‘Yahdeekum Allaah wa yuslihu baalakum
(May Allaah guide you and rectify your condition).’”