If you’re out somewhere getting groceries for example, don’t sneeze. If you do, you might be taking your life into your hands. That happened to me last month when I sneezed in the parking lot at Safeway (into my arm), and then heard myself explaining to the stranger eyeing me like she wanted to strangle me, “Hey don’t worry, I’m not sick! I have snatiation!”
She rolled her eyes. I realized she had no idea what I was talking about and probably thought I was being sarcastic to her.
I just learned about snatiation a few years ago, but I’ve had it all my life. When my kids were teens, they would tease me and count out loud how many times I sneezed uncontrollably during a fit! I think my record was 22 in a row.
Gastric sneezing is medically characterized as a gastric sneeze reflex. I’ve also seen the phrase “stomach sneeze reflex” but either way it’s a curious phenomenon that is tied to your genes. The gene is autosomal dominant, and it’s a sneezing disorder brought on by satiety or fullness of the stomach.
You can read more HERE.
Ah-choo! Over and over. If in public, I’d feel a sneeze coming on and race to the bathroom to sneeze in private, in a tissue of course. And wash my hands. For years, I didn’t know what to call this problem. I thought I was allergic to something in my food. Then one day I read an article about a genetic polymorphism that described a condition called “snatiation.” It’s a play on the words “satiation” and “sneeze.” Holy moly, it described me to a T.
Snatiation is totally controllable, at least for me. If I don’t stuff myself, I hardly ever sneeze. Do you have snatiation too?
Perhaps in years past for me as a young girl, snatiation was just a funny quirk I had to deal with! But today, if that were to happen to me (in public), I’d probably get shot!
Sneezing is triggered by many situations including epileptic disorders, a response to bright lights, spicy foods or dust and pollen. It often goes hand in hand with a runny nose. Aside from a cough, sneezing is the most apparent symptom of a cold, and sometimes the flu. As for COVID-19, sneezing is possible, and does happen but it’s not as predominant as other symptoms like fever, coughing and fatigue.
Facts About Sneezing
1. Most people need to close their eyes when sneezing. I don’t know anyone that can sneeze with their eyes open, however, it’s a myth that attempting to keep your eyes open (while sneezing) will hurt your eyeballs.
2. Sneezes travel far, much farther than we thought. We used to think it was just 35 to 40 miles per hour, but that was measuring individual droplets. Today’s high-speed videos show us disturbing footage of an invisible gas cloud that forms from the mucous spray, and these can travel 93 miles per hour (150 kilometers/hour).
3. The sound of your sneeze is based upon two things. One, your anatomy. That’s why some people roar, while others sound like a mere sniffle. Two, your sneeze is different based upon whether you’re in public, or at home. One estimate I found concluded that almost half of us sneeze louder at home than in public.
4. Once a sneeze starts, it’s impossible to stop.
5. The medical term for sneezing is sternutation.
6. One sneeze might emit 40,000 droplets.
7. The phrase “God bless you” has something to do with bubonic plague. The Pope at the time thought that a sneeze was an early warning sign of plague, so he commanded Christians to respond to sneezing with a blessing. The blessing is common among all religions today. In Germany, it’s pronounced this way, “Gesundheit!”
According to the Library of Congress:
“Pope Gregory I (Gregory the Great) suggested saying “God bless you” after a person sneezed in hopes that this prayer would protect them from an otherwise certain death.”
In Hawaii, when a person sneezes, you will often hear, “kihe a mauli ola” which means something like, “sneeze and you shall live.” In certain parts of Africa, sneezing very loudly will get you a look! It’s considered a bit rude to roar. There are some people in China and other parts of Asia who believe that a sneeze means someone, somewhere is talking about you. These and other superstitions abound. But for me, sneezing is a simple, involuntary reflex that occurs in response to various irritants, smells, infections or in my case, stuffing my face!
Speaking of stuffing my face, and “snatiation.” There are gene mutations involved. I suspect my dad gave me the gene for this. Snatiation is totally controllable, at least for me. If I don’t stuff myself, I rarely sneeze. Like super rarely. But if I over-indulge on a big meal, I’ll immediately sneeze 20 times! It starts a minute or two after the meal, sometimes while I’m finishing up.
Snatiation is a reflex, just like sneezing is. I can’t stop it once it starts, it has to run its course, so to speak. In other words, you’ll have to sneeze, and you’ll keep sneezing until you’re done. Trying to stop sneezing after two or three won’t work, at least it never worked for me.
Whatever is causing your sneezing, let’s vow to sneeze politely from now on, especially because of the circumstances with the coronavirus!
If you’re sick, and you have to sneeze, please be mindful and polite, and sneeze properly. Remember, doing so means you could literally spare someone from catching a life-threatening disease.
So sneeze into the crook of your elbow, or down into your shirt, or your scarf. Sneeze into a tissue, or if you’re near a bathroom, go inside and find a tissue. Wear your masks. Don’t blow your germs all over the place, it’s not only dangerous, it’s rude. If infectious (and please be mindful that you might be asymptomatic), your sneeze could be expelling a virus or bacteria up to 25 or 30 feet away from you. The mucus and saliva that you spew could hurt someone these days in a very serious way.
If you have your own story to share about sneezing, please write me at [email protected] I may post some of your comments here later on.
Comments from Readers
“While undergoing treatment for tonsil cancer, whenever I had to sneeze, the sneeze would be a rapid fire 3 sneeze burst. My doctors at the time had no explanation. After recovery, and no longer under any medication, sneezes are normal. Always thought this weird, enjoyed your article!”
“Dear Dr. Suzy
I inherited sneezing from my father. The sun makes me sneeze. I cannot go outside unless I have on sunglasses because I will immediately start sneezing if it is a sunny day. LOL and I do have a funny sneeze. It takes a few uhs before the real sneeze happens. Love your stories and info.”
“Thank you for this article as I am just like you and been living with that for 63 years and this is the first time I hear about snatiation. I’ll sure be more careful of how much I eat so I don’t stuff myself especially when I am going out. But I do notice sometimes I will sneeze in the morning and had nothing to eat at that point, maybe just a normal sneeze. For me I did count sometimes and I am between 10 and 15 sneezes and I am very loud. When I passed 10 sneezes I will be feeling pins and needles at the top of my back below my neck, it is so sore when this happens. Thank you again.”
“Hey Suzy! I remember your sneezing :-). My body response to stuffing myself is an immediate stuffiness that can but not always lead to a sneeze. I sounded like I had a bad cold, too, and thought it was a food allergy but in doing a food rotation/elimination diet, I discovered it happened when I “cleaned my plate” as I was taught. My only recourse is to put on my plate nothing measuring more than my 2 closed fists. Watch out for those buffets!”
“Hello Suzy and thank you for all of your knowledge and insightfulness about miríads if health issues. I work home nursing care therefore I am among the elderly with lots of aging issues. Here is one that is common (I’ve found ) they refuse to throw away the tissue! Always put it back into a pocket or clutching it in their hands.
They all have lots of sneezing habits and I did witness that one (now I have a name) snatiation. It does happen during a meal. I’ll be happy to explain this syndrome/symptom to them.
I’ve shared this on FB being so many are anxious to even be next to a person let alone sneeze! Oops! Just did one sitting on my couch. I bent as low as I could to the floor. Not funny, humidity from Florida air coming through the screen door.
Thank you Suzy and I do love your trusted products. Finally a person whom the public can trust with the truth about medications.”
“Suzy, thank you so much! Sneezing ultra spontaneously while I’m eating has happened to me a few times now and it really scared me. No one else in my family did this, but my body build is not similar to my sister and mother’s. (I’m thinner). I really thought how can I become allergic like this, if that’s what this sneezing is???!! And you’re right, sneezing during this “pandemic” could inspire some pretty violent reactions! Take care and thanks so much for your wonderful website.”
“Your article is interesting. I have allergies to foods and airborne irritants, so I’m used to sneezing. However, I seem to sneeze every evening around 5:30 pm. It doesn’t seem to be related to being outdoors or doing some specific activity. Often it is when I finish my work (work at home) and come to sit on the couch to relax. Probably not the couch as we recently changed couches. I keep tissues on the table beside the couch for that reason. Mystery.”
“Ok, Suzy…..what a bizarre coincidence! A few years ago…. and this is crazy 😜 and indeed the truth! Bear with me, I’m not kidding.
After 40 plus years of marriage (same gal) one finally begins to comprehend when the wife wants to get frisky. ( guess I’m a slow learner)
Anyway a few years ago this started… when a kiss, look, or attitude indicated she wants a little more than a kiss.
Arm in arm and laying there comfortably together when the realization occurred to me, ….. yikes! I would begin to sneeze.
It got to the point where it has almost become expected.
Kiddingly I said to my wife… “I think I have become allergic to you or maybe it’s sex!” We both just laugh it off and on we go. 😉
Thanks for the article.
Stay healthy and vigilant.” 😷
“My late friend and I used to race sports cars—a wonderful hobby before it got ridiculously expensive. Early on we learned how to sneeze with our eyes open…going into a turn in a bit of traffic after just passing through a dust cloud makes it very useful. Be well!”
“Hi Suzy. Love your site and all the great info you share with us! I don’t sneeze relative to eating but if I touch either or both tear ducts, I sneeze repeatedly. I am 72 and first noticed sneezing during swim class in high school. A long time ago, for sure. I sneezed throughout the entire time while standing in the pool. I cannot say I touched my eyes then, but I sneeze every time I touch them now. It causes intense itching there, too. Only known sensitivity is any smoke. Even a tiny bit. 😄💗“
“Oh. my. goodness! I have this but didn’t know there was a name for it. Typically I have six to seven sneezes in a row if I overeat. It is annoying because all conversation has to stop. However, on the bright side, it is another reason not to overeat. 😊 Thank you for sharing this article. I will be saving it. It is consoling that there is a “name” for this. I love all the information that you share! You help bring the quality of life to others.”
“Hi. An informative amusing article with a social message…nice!
I have the honor of responding to anything caught in my throat by sneezing…not coughing. Any food that irritates the back of my throat will cause 2 sneezes…not coughing…messy when you have a mouthful of food!”
“I had gastric bypass almost 10 years ago now. If I get to full I start sneezing. I found a way to stop it. Pop a sugar free mint in my mouth works for me! Keeps me from over eating so not gaining my weight back! I call it my full meter!”
“I have the same issue with sneezing after over eating. I did find a cure for it. I dated a young lady many years ago. I kissed her when I felt the sneeze coming on and the urge to sneeze ended. From then on when I felt it coming she would give me a kiss and all was well. My loving wife of 32 years will not kiss me for this. She instead thinks it is funny and laughs. Our children also as with yours thought it was funny and wondered how many times I would sneeze.”
I really enjoyed your article. I have exactly the same problem, usually after dinner. Now I will watch how much I eat and have to see if it also gets better. Thank you.”