Friday, December 3, 2010

Health Care and Sneezing

Ahhhhchoooo! Usually this sound means that someone has sneezed, and sometimes it can be pretty loud depending on the type of person who has experienced it and those closest to the person who let fly a spray from their nose and mouth. Sneezing is very common, and everyone does it--kids, adults, babies, even pets. Sneezing used to be thought of as a means for the body to drive out evil spirits. Today we know that the sudden forceful expulsion of air through the nose and mouth is caused by irritation of the mucous membrane, according to Men's Health on About.com. Functional and less scary, but more, well, boring?
Sneezing, also called sternutation, is your body's way of removing an irritation from your nose, according to KidsHealth.org.When the inside of your nose gets a tickle, a message is sent to a special part of your brain called the sneeze center. The sneeze center then sends a message to all the muscles that have to work together to create the amazingly complicated process that we call the sneeze. Some of the muscles involved are the abdominal (belly) muscles, the chest muscles, the diaphragm (the large muscle beneath your lungs that makes you breathe), the muscles that control your vocal cords, and muscles in the back of your throat. Don't forget the eyelid muscles! Did you know that you always close your eyes when you sneeze?
According to About.com, a sneeze can leave the body at a speed of about 150km an hour. A sneeze involves muscles in the face, throat, chest and abdomen. It is probable, therefore, that a young, fit man can sneeze more forcefully than someone older or someone who has a smaller body frame, but it's clearly dependant on a number of variables whether or not men sneeze more forcefully than women. Common causes of sneezing include:

•Nasal irritants like dust, pepper, powders, pollens
•Viral infections like the common cold
•Drug withdrawal
•Corticosteroid inhalation
•Exposure to sunlight

Do you know anyone who sneezes when they step outside into the sunshine? About 1 out of every 3 people sneezes when exposed to bright light, according to KidsHealth.org. They are called photic sneezers (photic means light). If you are a photic sneezer, you got it from one of your parents because it is an inherited trait. You could say that it runs in your family. Most people have some sensitivity to light that can trigger a sneeze. Have you ever had the feeling that you are about to sneeze, but it just gets stuck? Next time that happens, try looking toward a bright light briefly (but don't look right into the sun) — see if that doesn't unstick a stuck sneeze!

There are plenty of myths that circulate about sneezing. Strange sneezing facts aside, there are some beliefs about sneezing that just aren't true, according to WebMD. For instance, it's not true that your heart stops when you sneeze. When your chest contracts because of a sneeze, your blood flow is momentarily constricted as well. As a result, the rhythm of your heart may change, but it definitely doesn't stop. And your eyeballs cannot pop out of your head when you sneeze. Most people naturally close their eyes when they sneeze, but if they are able to keep them open, their eyes stay firmly planted in their heads where they belong. While a person's blood pressure behind the eyes may increase slightly when he sneezes, it's not enough force to dislodge the eyeballs from the head. Plus, some people believe other sneezing folklore, including the notion that if you sneeze, company is coming over, and if your cat sneezes, it's going to rain. As for the blessing many people say after someone sneezes,  the Greek word for sneeze is "pneuma," which means "soul or spirit." A post-sneeze blessing stems from the ancient belief that sneezing is a near-death experience, and that a blessing will prevent your soul or sneeze from escaping your body and will deter the devil from entering in.

Also, for almost anything you want to know about sneezing can be found at this website with exhaustive information about the subject: http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/sym/sneezing.htm . Want to know how to stop a sneeze? You can find a lot of info here: http://www.wikihow.com/Stop-a-Sneeze . If you want to know why your dog sneezes, visit this site: http://pethealth.petwellbeing.com/wiki/Dog_Sneezing .

According to WebMD, here are 10 Surprising Sneezing Facts:

1. "Sneezes start in your nerves," says Neil Kao, MD, an allergy and asthma specialist at the Allergic Disease and Asthma Center in Greenville, S.C. Everyone's nervous system is basically wired in the same way. But signals traveling along nerves can take slightly different paths to and from the brain, resulting in different sneeze scenarios from person to person. It's a nerve transmission that tells your brain something is in your nose that needs to come out.

2. Sneezing helps keep your body safe. Sneezing is an important part of the immune process, helping to keep us healthy and sniffle-free. Sneezes protect your body by clearing the nose of bacteria and viruses. When something enters your nose or you encounter a trigger that sets off your "sneeze center" in your brain, located in the lower brain stem, signals are rapidly sent to tightly close your throat, eyes, and mouth. Next, your chest muscles vigorously contract, and then your throat muscles quickly relax. As result, air -- along with saliva and mucus -- is forced out of your mouth and nose. Voila, you've sneezed.

3. Sneezes are speedy. "Sneezes travel at about 100 miles per hour," says Patti Wood, author of Success Signals: Understanding Body Language. Also, a single sneeze can send 100,000 germs into the air.

4. Plucking your eyebrows may make you sneeze. Plucking may set off a nerve in your face that supplies your nasal passages. As a result, you sneeze.

5. You don't sneeze in your sleep. When you sleep, so do your sneezing nerves -- which means you usually don't sneeze when you doze.

6. Your workout may make you sneeze. Exercise can make you sneeze. You hyperventilate when you're over-exerted, and as a result, your nose and mouth start to dry up. So your nose reacts by starting to drip, making you sneeze.

7. The longest sneezing spree: 978 days, a record set by Donna Griffiths of Worcestershire, England, according to background information on the Library of Congress' web site.

8. Sex can be a sneezing trigger. Have sex, must sneeze? It happens more often than you might think. Researchers believe that the stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system fires off signals in some people to not only enjoy the act of sex, but to sneeze when it's over.

9. The sneeziest animal: the iguana. Iguanas sneeze more often and more productively than any other animal, according to research. Sneezing is how they rid their bodies of certain salts that are the normal byproduct of their digestive process.

10. How do you stop a sneeze? While it's not foolproof, try breathing through your mouth and pinching the end of your nose.

Sneezing in itself is not a life-threatening situation, but it may trigger other health issues. Sneezing is a phenomenon that is common to all humans and is widespread in the animal kingdom as well. It may, according to MSN.com play an important role in maintaining health in ways that people do not currently understand. It is rarely a sign of serious illness or impending disaster as feared by previous generations. On the other hand, it can be remarkably annoying, as anyone with significant seasonal allergies or a bad cold can tell you. Perhaps the most important "take-home" message is to mention again the importance of covering your mouth and nose when you have a cold that triggers a sneeze.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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