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Does Your Heart Stop When You Sneeze?

Updated: Jun 17


Does Your Heart Stop When You Sneeze? - A Man Holding a Tissue Paper About to Sneeze.

Sneezing is something that everyone does at some point, and there are lots of myths and beliefs about it. One common question that surfaces: “Does your heart stop when you sneeze?”. In this article, we'll explore the science of sneezing and how it affects the heart.


What is a Sneeze?

A sneeze is a natural reflex that happens when something irritates your nose, like dust, pollen, or bright light. Sneezing makes you expel air from your mouth and nose in a quick burst, usually with a distinct sound. Sneezing is your body's way of trying to get rid of the irritant.


What Causes Sneezes?

Sneezing is a common and often involuntary bodily function that is caused by many different things. Here are some of the most common causes:


Environmental Irritants

Sneezing is often caused by environmental irritants that bother your nose and make it irritated. Things like dust, pollen, mold, and other particles that float around in the air can make your nose irritated and cause you to sneeze. When these particles get into your nose, your body tries to get rid of them by making you sneeze. Sneezing is like a big burst of air that comes out of your nose to try to get rid of the particles.


Allergies and Allergens

For people who have allergies, sneezing can happen a lot. Allergens are things that make your body react. They can be things like pet fur, certain foods, or insect bites. When you come into contact with these allergens, your body's immune system releases chemicals called histamines that irritate the inside of your nose. This irritation can cause you to sneeze as your body tries to get rid of the irritants.


Viral Infections

Sneezing can also be caused by viruses, like the ones that cause colds or the flu. When these viruses infect your body, your immune system fights back by trying to get rid of the virus. Sneezing is one way your body tries to get rid of the virus from your respiratory system, which is the system that includes your nose, throat, and lungs.


Bright Light

Sneezing can also be triggered by exposure to bright light. This is called photic sneezing. We don't know exactly why this happens, but scientists think it's because there is a connection between the nerve that controls your eyes (the optic nerve) and the nerve that controls your sneezing (the trigeminal nerve). So, when you are exposed to bright light, it can make you sneeze.


Nasal Irritants

Sometimes, sneezing can be caused by things that irritate your nose, like strong smells, perfumes, or chemicals. When your nose is exposed to these things, your body wants to get rid of them as soon as possible so that they don't cause any harm to your respiratory system. So, your body makes you sneeze to try to get rid of the irritants.


Foreign Particles in the Nose

Sneezing can also be caused by foreign particles, like tiny insects or small pieces of dust, that get stuck in your nose. When this happens, your body will make you sneeze to try to get rid of the particles from your nose. This is because your body doesn't want the particles to stay in your nose, because they might cause damage or make you sick.


Temperature Changes

Sometimes, sneezing can be caused by sudden changes in temperature, especially if you go into a cold environment. When you go from a warm place to a cold place, your body can make you sneeze as a way to protect your respiratory system from being damaged by the cold. So, if you walk out of a warm room into the cold air, you might start sneezing.


What happens when you sneeze?


1. Initiation of the Sneezing Reflex

Sneezing starts when the sensory receptors in your nose detect an irritant. These receptors send signals to your brain, specifically to a part of the brain called the sneeze center, which is located in the medulla oblongata. This part of your brain then starts the sneezing reflex.


2. Muscle Contraction

When the sneezing process is triggered, your muscles contract to help create the sneeze. The muscles in your chest, abdomen, and diaphragm contract, which increases the pressure inside your chest. At the same time, the opening between your vocal cords, called the glottis, closes.


3. Pressure Build-Up

As the muscles contract and the glottis closes, the pressure inside your chest increases. This pressure build-up is important because it's what causes the forceful expulsion of air that happens when you sneeze.


4. Expulsion of Air

The build-up of pressure in your chest is then released in the form of a forceful expulsion of air. This air is released through your mouth and nose, carrying with it the irritants or particles that caused you to sneeze in the first place.


5. Closing of the Eyes

When you sneeze, your eyes might also close temporarily. This is a reflexive response that is meant to protect your eyes from any particles that might be propelled from your nose or mouth when you sneeze. Not everyone experiences this, but for some people, it's a natural reaction to sneezing.


6. Adrenaline Release

During a sneeze, the body releases a small amount of adrenaline. This hormone causes a brief increase in heart rate, which is part of the body's natural reaction to stress or perceived danger.


7. Return to Baseline

After you sneeze, your body returns to its normal state quickly. The muscles that were contracting relax, the glottis reopen, and you start to breathe normally again. The whole process of sneezing is a really quick and well-coordinated response that your body does to get rid of irritants in your respiratory system.


8. Post-Sneeze Sensation

After you sneeze, you might feel a sense of relief because your body has successfully gotten rid of the irritants that caused you to sneeze. However, your nasal passages might still produce mucus, which is part of your body's ongoing defense mechanism to make sure that your respiratory system is clear.


Does your heart stop when you sneeze?

Your heart doesn't stop when you sneeze. There is a common myth that says that your heart momentarily stops when you sneeze, but this is not true. Scientists have not found any evidence that your heart stops during a sneeze. It is likely that this myth started because when you sneeze, you close your eyes and your body is still for a moment, which might make it seem like your heart stopped. But in reality, your heart doesn't stop beating when you sneeze.


What happens to your heart when you sneeze?

When you sneeze, your heart rate may increase for a short period of time due to the release of adrenaline. However, this increase is temporary, and it does not cause your heart to stop beating. Your heart continues to function normally during a sneeze and quickly returns to its regular rhythm after the sneeze is over.


Should I hold in my sneeze?

While it might seem like a good idea to hold in a sneeze, it can actually cause problems. When you sneeze, your body generates a lot of force that is supposed to come out through your nose and mouth. If you try to hold in a sneeze, that force gets redirected inside your body, and it can cause discomfort. So, it's best to let the sneeze happen naturally. It's your body's natural way of getting rid of irritants, so it’s best to let it do its job.


Why Holding in a Sneeze Might Not Be Ideal?


1. Increased Pressure in the Body

When you try to hold in a sneeze, the force that is supposed to come out through your nose and mouth stays inside your body. This causes your chest and head to have increased pressure, which can cause discomfort. In extreme cases, this pressure can even cause harm. So, it's best to let the sneeze come out naturally and not try to hold it in.


2. Risk of Ear and Sinus Injuries

When you hold in a sneeze, the pressure that is supposed to come out through your nose and mouth might find different ways to come out. This pressure can cause damage to delicate structures in your ears or sinuses. So, it's really important to let the sneeze happen naturally so that your body can get rid of the pressure without causing any damage.


3. Potential for Ruptured Blood Vessels

When you hold in a sneeze, you can increase the risk of rupturing blood vessels in your eyes. This is because the sudden increase in pressure can cause damage to your eyes. This is why it is important to let your body follow its natural course and let the sneeze happen.


When to See a Doctor

Sneezing is a common and typically harmless reflex, but there are times when you should go see a doctor. Here are some things to look out for that might mean you need to go to the doctor:


  • Persistent or Excessive Sneezing: If you're sneezing a lot throughout the day and it's been going on for a while, that could be a sign that something is wrong. If this is happening to you, you should go to the doctor to make sure that you don't have any allergies, infections, or other conditions that might be causing you to sneeze so much. It’s always best to be on the safe side and get checked out if you’re concerned about your sneezing.

  • Nasal Congestion and Other Symptoms: If you're sneezing and have a stuffy nose, or if you’re having trouble breathing, or if you’re having other respiratory symptoms, that might be a sign that you have allergies, sinusitis (a condition where your sinuses get inflamed), or a respiratory infection. If this is happening to you, you should go to the doctor to make sure that you don’t have any of these conditions. They might need to give you some medicine or treat you in some other way.

  • Fever and General Malaise: If you're sneezing and you also have a fever, you might have an infection. If you have a fever, you might also feel tired, or just generally not feel well. If you notice this happening, you should go to the doctor to find out if you have an infection and what you need to do to get better. The doctor might need to give you some medicine or do some other kind of treatment.

  • Sneezing and Chronic Health Conditions: If you have a chronic health condition like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you should pay attention to any changes in your sneezing patterns. If you start sneezing more or if your sneezes are more severe, you should go to the doctor to make sure that your chronic condition isn’t getting worse. The doctor might need to adjust your treatment plan to help you manage your condition better.

  • Sneezing Impacting Daily Life: If sneezing is getting in the way of your daily life, like if it’s making it hard for you to work or sleep, you should go to the doctor. Sneezing can affect your quality of life if it happens all the time or if it's very disruptive, and the doctor can figure out what's causing it and give you some advice on how to deal with it.

  • Unexplained Weight Loss: If you're sneezing a lot and you’re also losing weight without trying to, that might mean that you have a health issue that needs to be checked out. If you notice that you're losing weight without knowing why, and you're also sneezing a lot, you should go to the doctor to figure out what's wrong. The doctor can then give you some medicine or treatment to help you get better.

  • Allergic Reactions: If you’re sneezing and you also have other symptoms of an allergic reaction, like hives or difficulty breathing, you should go to the doctor or call emergency services right away. This is a medical emergency, and you need to get help as soon as possible. The doctor can then give you the treatment you need to help you get better.

  • Special Considerations for Children and Older Adults: Sneezing can be especially important for children and older adults. If you have a child who is sneezing a lot, you should take them to the doctor to make sure that they don't have any problems. The same goes for older adults - if they're sneezing a lot, they should go to the doctor to make sure that they're okay. This is especially true if the sneezing is affecting their health in other ways.


Are you worried about your health? If you have questions about sneezing or any other health issues, Center One Medical is ready to help. Our team of doctors is committed to offering personalized and thorough care to support your overall well-being. Feel free to contact us and book an appointment with us today.


Conclusion

Sneezing is a really interesting part of human physiology. It might seem like a simple bodily function, but there's a lot of science behind it. Understanding why we sneeze and what happens to our bodies when we sneeze helps us appreciate the important role that sneezing plays in keeping our respiratory system healthy. Even though your heart doesn't stop when you sneeze and sneezing is usually harmless, it's important to know when you need to go to the doctor for your overall health and well-being.



FAQs


1. Can sneezing really stop the heart?

  • No, sneezing doesn't stop your heart. Even though your heart rate might increase for a short period of time when you sneeze, that's just a natural and harmless response of your body. It's nothing to worry about.

2. Is it normal for the heart rate to increase during a sneeze?

  • Yes, it is normal for the heart rate to increase momentarily during a sneeze. This is a natural response and not a cause for concern. The increase in heart rate is a part of the body's natural response to sneezing.

3. How does age affect the impact of sneezing on the heart?

  • Younger people might experience a more pronounced increase in heart rate when they sneeze, but it's not just about your age. There are other factors that can affect the impact of sneezing on your heart, like your overall health. So, it’s not just about how old you are.

4. Are there any long-term effects on the heart from frequent sneezing?

  • No, frequent sneezing is unlikely to have long-term effects on your heart. Sneezing is just a temporary and normal response of your body, and it's not something that will harm your heart in the long run. So, don't worry if you’re sneezing a lot—your heart will be just fine.

5. Should individuals with heart conditions be concerned about sneezing?

  • If you have a heart condition, you might experience a slight increase in heart rate when you sneeze, but that's usually nothing to worry about. Sneezing is generally safe, even for people with heart conditions. However, if you’re concerned about how sneezing is affecting your heart, it’s always a good idea to talk to your healthcare professional to get specific advice for your situation.

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