For thirty minutes yesterday I was possessed by a power greater than myself. A whopper of a sneezing fit.
Let me preface this little tale by pointing out that I am not prone to fits of any sort, except for the occasional outbreak of exuberant rhyming, and speaking in accents – both generally the result of a glass of wine, sleep deprivation, or a good-old fashioned dare.
Now I can’t recall the last time I was gripped by the gale force ferocity of sneeze after sneeze. And it went on for a full half hour – my eyes tearing, my neck stiffening, my head cocked in anticipation, and then BAM! BAM! Two sneezes, then a third, then a fourth!
All I could do was run for the closest roll of toilet paper, dabble in a dollop of damage control, and uh, uh, uh – BAM! Another, and another, and another! At one point, I counted 12 consecutive sneezes (surely a personal record) – and at the end of that little whirlwind of activity, I was ready to keel over!
Is it any surprise that this got me wondering, since I’m prone to wonder about all sorts of oddities?
- How fast is the human sneeze?
- What is the longest sneezing fit on record?
- So what causes sneezing, if it isn’t a cold or dust?
- Why do we say “bless you” after a sneeze?
I turned to Google, to the Guinness Book of Records, and to a variety of other sources available on the internet. And here’s what I discovered.
How fast does a sneeze travel?
According to Answers.com, air travels at 120 mph for the average human sneeze! Apparently for children, it’s 80 to 90 mph, and if you believe the statistics you find online, adults aged 40 to 50 have the speediest sneezes around – occasionally up to 800 mph! (Think we could harness that energy in some way, and use it during peak holiday travel times???)
And I thought I was kidding when I said gale force sneezing!
The longest sneezing fit on record
I was flabbergasted at this fantastic factoid. According to chacha.com (don’t you love that name?), the longest sneezing fit ever was 978 days. That’s almost three years, people! And this poor sneezing and wheezing woman logged a million sneezes in the first year alone!
Did she invest in Kleenex? Moisturize her nose on a regular basis? What must she have dreamed while sneezing through snoozing? Can you imagine???
WiseGeek.com offers a rather clinical explanation of what causes sneezing, pertaining to mucous membranes and sinus passages (yuk), and of course, the dreaded cold, flu, or allergic reaction. They also mention “introduction of foreign agents.” Oh my. I might change my position on cosmetic surgery if I had a shnozzola capacious enough to introduce a foreign agent.
What else accounts for bountiful bouts of boisterous blasts out our nimble noses? There is something called the photic sneeze, triggered by sunlight. And apparently it runs in families! (Of course, this doesn’t explain my sneezing fit yesterday – as I was in a dimly lit room with the curtains drawn.)
Why do we say “bless you” after someone sneezes?
Though we say nothing when other bodily emissions occur (occasionally we stifle a chuckle), wishing a sneezer well dates back thousands of years, and varies slightly by culture. According to How Stuff Works, saying “bless you” or some variant after a sneeze is due to the belief that sneezing precedes some sort of illness. Thus, cultures call upon their deities and also evoke good health when in the presence of a sneezer.
More fanciful factoids to come…
In my rigorous research of the sneeze factor, I’ll admit to slamming into a few other fanciful factoids that are too juicy to keep to myself. But I’ll save them for another day. Who doesn’t love a little mystery? Something to look forward to?
As for moi and the sneezing sagas, I hope they’re done for now. But I’m going to toss some salt over my left shoulder, spin around three times, knock on wood and chant to a few crystals and candles, not that I’m superstitious mind you. But I am grateful not to have sneezed for days, much less three years!
- Any weird tidbits you’d care to share?
- Fun or frivolous factoids about the humorous human?