Sneezes fascinate me. They are unique to each and every one of us. I can identify some by their sneeze. The sister muffles her sneezes in her armpit, the eldest grandniece emits a barely audible “shoosh” sneeze, and the middle child is like me. She can rattle the rafters with her truck driver sneeze.
People sneeze for a variety of reasons. Judy Kaelin posted an article that you can read here, about how to keep your home “sneeze free all year” with some great tips on controlling pollen dust and mold. But allergens are not the only trigger to a sneeze. In addition to colds and flu, even something as common as bright light or plucking your eyebrows can make you sneeze, not to mention black pepper.
Some make a huge production before sneezing. These ritualistic sneezers might stop walking, put their arms out to their sides, and wave their hands around in a circle. Others may try to under-emphasize the sneeze, turn their head to one side and delicately whisper, “choo, choo, choo”. And of course we have the blow hard sneezer who inhales loudly three times and then explodes with an uncovered sneeze that can travel 100 miles per hour. Just think, this guy could be sharing spittle and sputum with people in the next county.
The aftermath of a sneeze is also unique. Grampa will whip out his handkerchief, sneeze into it and then honk a few times to amuse the grandchildren. The younger males don’t know what a handkerchief is, so they wipe their hands on their pants after they have examined them. Young girls and women cover their nose and mouth with their hands like they’re praying, while the senior ladies use that tissue they all seem to have stuffed in the cuff of their sweater. The little buggers like to sneeze a few inches from your face and laugh.
Sneezing is like eating a Frito. Nobody can sneeze just once. Most people sneeze in intervals of threes, although I hit eight once. I’ve given up trying to suppress a sneeze. Don’t even bother with the nose twitching or elongating the upper lip. It may work for a minute or two, but chances are that sneeze trying to escape will blast out just when you think you’re off the hook.
Did you realize that we don’t sneeze while we’re sleeping? It seems the brain can’t alert the proper messengers that send the sneeze signal. And we elders all know that suppressing a sneeze can be dangerous for one prone to flatulence, although doctors warn of “other” problems, such as facial emphysema (I don’t know what this is either) and face and neck discomforts.
It is true that you cannot possibly sneeze with your eyes open. I can’t even sneeze while holding my eye lids apart to keep my eyes open. I ripped out more than a few eyelashes trying to disprove this, to no avail. And after the age of 60 it is physically impossible to sneeze without dribbling from both ends.
Some believe that saying “lamp” or “cucumber” repeatedly after sensing a sneeze delays or stops it from happening. I wouldn’t know because I am following the doctor’s advice about that facial emphysema thing, but I wish someone would experiment with this one and let me know if words like “tramp” and “dumb and dumb-ber” might also work. What a great way to get a subtle point across. Safe sneezing and for crying out loud, cover up!