WHY WE SNEEZE AND THE PROCESS INVOLVED. | Dr. Yeibake Weriwoyingipre Silver

Sneezing is a reflex action that occurs in response to irritants or foreign particles stimulating the sensory nerves in the lining of the nasal passages. It is a complex physiological process involving multiple systems in the body. 

How sneezing occurs can be summarized in the following steps:

1. Detection of irritants: The process of sneezing begins when irritants, such as dust, pollen, smoke, or certain chemicals, enter the nasal passages. These irritants can stimulate the sensitive nerve endings in the mucous (soft, pink) membranes lining the nasal cavity or inner part of the nose.

2. Sensory nerve stimulation: When the irritants come into contact with the sensory nerves, they activate "the trigeminal," a nerve responsible for feeling in the face and head. This nerve sends the information to the brain's sneezing center, located in the medulla oblongata.

3. Signal transmission: The sensory nerves transmit the signals to the brain, where the sneezing center processes the information. The brain then initiates a rapid (fast) and coordinated response to eliminate the irritants.

4. Inhalation phase: The first phase of sneezing is inhalation (breathing in). The brain sends signals to various muscles involved in the process, including the diaphragm, chest muscles, and muscles in the back of the throat.

5. Closing of the glottis (voice box in our throat): During the inhalation phase, the glottis closes. This prevents the air from entering the lungs and directs it towards the nasopharynx (deepest part of the nose).

6. Build-up of pressure: As the inhaling muscles contract (tighten and shorten suddenly), the volume (amount of air) of the thoracic (chest) cavity reduces, causing a rise in air pressure within the lungs and nasopharynx.

7. Forceful exhalation (breathing out of air): Once a sufficient amount of air is inhaled (breathe in), the brain signals the muscles involved in exhalation (breathing out), including the diaphragm and abdominal muscles, to contract rapidly and forcefully.

8. Expulsion of irritants: The forceful exhalation rapidly pushes the compressed air out through the nose, expelling the irritants or foreign particles in the process. The high speed (velocity) of the expelled air helps to clear the nasal passages and remove the irritants.

9. Relief and reset: After sneezing, the nasal passages are temporarily cleared, providing relief from the irritation caused by the irritants. 

The process of sneezing resets the nasal cavity's protective mechanism, preparing it to detect and respond to any future irritants.

It is important to note that sneezing can also be triggered by other factors, such as allergies, infections, or changes in temperature. Additionally, some individuals may have certain conditions, such as reflex nasal hypersensitivity, that can cause excessive or frequent sneezing.

Author: Dr. Yeibake Weriwoyingipre Silver

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