A sneeze is a reaction in the body that suddenly presses air out of lungs so it flows quickly out through the mouth and nose. Air and mucus (the liquid found in the nose) are forced out quickly. Sneezing often happens after breathing dust or other small things that irritate the membranes in the nose. The function of sneezing is to clean the space in the nose by removing the mucus and irritating things. Sneezing is mostly involuntary, which means that it happens without trying.
A sneeze consists of a deep inward breath that fills the lungs, a closing or partial closing of the throat, and a sudden increase in pressure in the lungs that forces air out. This increase in pressure is a result of muscles near the lungs that contract (tighten and shorten). Sneezing never happens during sleep because reflex signals do not pass to the part of the brain that causes muscles to move. When people sneeze, their eyes close. The speed of the air from sneezing is about 150 kilometers per hour or more.
When a person sneezes, many small drops of saliva and mucus blow out from the nose and mouth. These tiny drops often contain viruses and bacteria. Some of these are germs, which can make other people sick. To keep this from happening as much, is important to block the sneezed air with something like cloth or tissue to catch the drops. It also helps to move away from other people, go outside, or face away.
A common thing to say to people when they sneeze is "Bless you!", or sometimes in the United States sometimes "Gesundheit!" (from German, meaning "Good health"). There is a story that the blessing started with Pope Gregory VII (540–604 AD). He said a blessing might stop people from getting the bubonic plague which was killing people in Rome at the time. There is a myth that when you sneeze your heart and all internal organs stop functioning.
The sound of a sneeze is written "achoo!" in English. Other languages write it differently. For example, in Swedish it is "atjoo!", in French it is "atchoum!" and in German it is "Hatschi!".
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