Sneezing or sternutation is an involuntary release of air from the nose. It is the body’s way of getting irritants out of the nasal passages.
It is a myth that a person’s heart stops when they sneeze. The heart does not stop, but it may change its rhythm — briefly. This poses no threat to health or well-being.
The heart beats due to electrical signals from the sinus node, a small mass of tissue in the heart’s upper-right chamber, or atria.
A person’s heart does not stop when they sneeze. This is because sneezing does not affect the electrical signals that control the heart rate.
When a person sneezes, there is a large change of pressure in the chest. There is also a change in blood flow to the heart. These sudden, dramatic changes can affect the heart rate, but the heart does not stop beating.
What does happen to the heart during a sneeze?
The myth that a person’s heart stops when they sneeze may stem from the fact that a sneeze can affect the rhythm of the heartbeat.
Before a person sneezes, they inhale deeply, which builds up extra pressure in the chest. As a person exhales during the sneeze, the pressure decreases. This can change the blood flow to the heart, which can affect the heart rate.
These pressure and blood flow changes alter the heart rate slightly. But it returns to normal shortly afterward.
The vagus nerve also plays a role. This nerve travels from the brain to the abdomen. It is responsible trusted source for reflex actions, such as sneezing, and it is also a part of the nervous system that controls the heart.
During a sneeze, the built up pressure in the chest can cause the vagus nerve to react and reduce the heart rate.
What causes sneezes?
A sneeze is one of the body’s ways of removing foreign objects and substances from the respiratory tract. This tract includes the nose, throat, and lungs.
A person may inhale something that irritates their respiratory tract, and this can trigger a sneeze. Some of these irritants include dust, spices, and pollen.
Other common causes of sneezing include:
- The common cold
- Allergic rhinitis