Is Sneezing Really Like an Orgasm?

eyes, sneeze, reflex
Sternutation, commonly known as sneezing, is a protective reflex developed to protect the nasal passages and lungs. (Image credit: Andrew Davidhazy/RIT)

If sneezing were really like an orgasm, pushers would deal black market sneeze pepper and street snuff by the kilo, and Wall Street traders would bid the best nasal irritants up to $1,700 per ounce on the commodities exchange.

The fact that neither scenario occurs suggests that this myth isn’t worth the price of a tissue. Neither is the popular variant that says that sneezing a certain number of times will bring on an orgasm – or at least deliver the same feeling of lightheaded buildup and release.

Like orgasms, sneezes are reflexes involving tension and release; like climaxes, they sometimes feel like they’re about to happen, but don’t; and like sex’s final throes, they can erupt as loud crescendos or pop off like a string of firecrackers. Some evidence suggests that sneezing, like orgasms, also releases endorphins.

Thus, it seems, comparisons were inevitable. Nevertheless, no scientific basis exists for equating an involuntary nasal expulsion to the sweet shudder of sexual climax.

Connections do exist, however.

Although supporting literature remains sparse, cases have been reported of men and women who sneeze when sexually aroused. Doctors suspect that the phenomenon might arise from a case of crossed wires in the autonomic nervous system, which regulates a number of automatic functions in the body, including “waking up” the genitals during arousal. The nose, like the genitals, contains erectile tissue.

On a related note, some people find that their noses feel stuffed up during sex – a condition known as honeymoon rhinitis. Rhinitis, an inflammation of the mucous membranes often associated with allergies, can also trigger from nonallergenic causes, including weather changes, alcohol consumption or perfume inhalation.

If that sounds strange, keep in mind that one in four people sneeze in response to sunlight, too.

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