(This is a published article: I didn’t write it!)

God bless you! Whether it’s pollen or a spring cold, there’s a whole lot of sneezing going on.

What makes us sneeze?
In addition to being a symptom of an underlying condition, such as allergies and colds, we sneeze when something irritates the membrane of the nose. Here are some of the reasons we sneeze, according to the Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine and Discovery.com:

  • Foreign object in the nose, including particles of pepper, smoke, irritating chemical fumes, or gases
  • Withdrawal from opiate drugs
  • Stepping outdoors into bright sunlight, which even has a scientific name: Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst Syndrome
  • Tweezing your eyebrows
  • Combing your hair
  • Rubbing the inner corner of your eye
  • Eating too much

Why you sneeze the way you do
It’s in your genes, reports Discovery.com. Whether you sneeze once, twice, or thrice, you’re genetically programmed this way so don’t even think about trying to change it. “In my family it’s three sneezes,” says sneeze expert Roberta Pagon, a professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, “but someone else’s family had eight.” She said one of her sneezing subjects always sneezed 43 times when first exposed to bright sunlight.

How many times do YOU sneeze? Find your special sneezing pattern in this poem and see what you get for it:
One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a letter
Four for a boy.
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret, never to be told.

Why we say “God bless you” after someone else sneezes
The pope said so. That is, Pope Gregory the Great, who lived from 540 to 604 AD, said so. He happened to ascend to the Papacy just as the Bubonic plague took hold. Saying “God bless you” after someone sneezed was literally that–a blessing. Straightdope.com reports that when people sneezed, they were immediately blessed with a “God bless you” as a prayer to prevent them from getting the plague.

Sneezing superstitions (and none is true):

  • Sneezing expels the soul.
  • Your heart stops.
  • Your eyes will pop out if you keep them open while you sneeze.
  • Sneezing before breakfast is a sign you’ll get exciting news before the end of the day.

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