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Mtl_zack's avatar

Why do people sneeze differently?

Asked by Mtl_zack (6762points) June 1st, 2009

Why are some people loud, or squeaky, or silent, or body shaking or whatever?

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19 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

<tapping my fingers waiting for a serious answer>

PapaLeo's avatar

I could draw parallels between sneezing and the culmination of fornication (for men at least ;-)), but I won’t.

Jeruba's avatar

Uh-oh, @PapaLeo, we’re supposed to let the serious answers go first.

@mattbrowne, I think that’s too simple. There’s also a cultural and “politeness” override, I think. We don’t all just let loose. Efforts to suppress or contain produce different results.

Also there are the kinds of sneezes to consider (nose tickle, full cannon from deep in the lungs, etc..) and how clear or obstructed the nasal passages are at the time. I think the person’s vocal structures play a role. Not to mention habit. And what causes the sneeze in the first place: a virus, a little irritation from dust or mold, or something else. I think allergy sneezes feel different from cold sneezes, too.

I think sneezing is one of the funniest things we do. I have done so very much of it myself, as a child plagued by allergies and frequent colds into adulthood, that I am practically a connoisseur. I think I could create scientific categories of sneezes and describe them. Or has that already been done?

cyn's avatar

Simple! We have different noses?

DragonFace's avatar

im a loud sneezer. when i try to sneeze quietly my head feels like its gonna explode so i just keep with the loud ass AAAAACCCCHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

essieness's avatar

I’m also a really loud sneezer! I just let it all go and I don’t care who’s around. Of course, I cover my mouth, but I’m not going to hold it in and squeak. I worry about the squeakers. That pressure building up in their heads just can’t be good!

Jeruba's avatar

My grandfather used to sneeze ”hitch hitch hitch hitch.” It used to bother me because it sounded so repressed and unsastisfying. I used to work near a man who let loose one blast every morning that sounded like a steam whistle. Made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. My boss referred to it as “Mr. S’s morning prayer.” Right now there is a woman near me who has spasms several times a week that are an incredibly long series of tiny little cat-sneeze bursts: ”chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu! chu!” until you think she will die. I can’t help laughing.

Me, I try to confine myself to a ladylike ”kkh kkh” when I’m around people, but there is something almost orgasmic (thank you, @PapaLeo) about letting go with a really good sneeze, and I do when I’m not in polite company. The little suppressed ones feel like they hurt my brain.

I think the song ‘I Love to Laugh’ from Mary Poppins could be rewritten for sneezes without many changes. Even the word “sneeze” is comical.

tinyfaery's avatar

@Jeruba I am allergic to everything, and I sneeze all the time. Allergy sneezes are high-pitched, and repetitive. (My wife says I sound like a sci-fi laser) Cold sneezes are bellowing outbursts. And of course, there is everything in between.

Jeruba's avatar

@tinyfaery, and they feel entirely different, too, don’t they? Not that you can’t have a good skull-rattling explosion from allergies, but they don’t settle anything.

Dansedescygnes's avatar

I don’t know, I don’t try to change my sneeze or anything and it always comes out kind of quiet and squeaky and it always has. Although, it hasn’t been too squeaky lately, which is good because people don’t stare at me after I sneeze then. :P

Bluefreedom's avatar

Variety is the spice of life. Identical sneezes from all 6 billion people on the planet would be very boring.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Jeruba – What I meant was that anatomy is the main factor. A sneeze is a semi-autonomous, convulsive expulsion of air from the lungs through the nose and mouth – similar to the cough reflex in a sense that our neocortex is not involved (or very little). I agree that the conscious mind can influence the sounds related to sneezing to a certain extend, but the influence is minor. Anatomy is what mostly counts.

Jeruba's avatar

@mattbrowne, I understood. And I don’t think the influence is minor at all. If I can condense a major explosion into one demure k-hatch (and make my ears pop) at 1/10 or less of the volume and convulsive power of a sneeze unleashed, I consider that major. Now, comparative sneezery on an equal footing might vary according to the configuration of the throat and the nasal and sinus passages and the person’s vocal quality. But when I sneeze a restricted personal sneeze, the parts of the anatomy that count are my hands (holding tissues), my voluntary closing of apertures, and my stifling of lung power.

casheroo's avatar

I think we might even fart differently too. Stop the presses.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Jeruba – All right. You have given comparative sneezery great thought, so I guess my analysis was too superficial after all.

A_Beaverhausen's avatar

my boyfriend has the cutest little mouse sneezes EVER. and hes like 6foot.

arnbev959's avatar

My sister used to sneeze loudly, until she “figured out” how to do the squeak kind. I had no idea that sneeze type was something that you could consciously change.

Polly_Math's avatar

Sneezes are like snowflakes.

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