Sternutation - Do you do it?!!!



Thread Starter
:D :cool: :D I thought this was an interesting word, and one I had not heard of before.

sternutation • \ster-nyuh-TAY-shun\ • (noun)
: the act, fact, or noise of sneezing

Example sentence:
During cold and flu season, a chorus of sternutation could be heard around the office as employees gave in to fits of sneezing.

Did you know?
"Sternutation" comes from Latin, a descendant of the verb "sternuere," meaning "to sneeze." One of the earliest known English uses occurred in a 16th-century edition of a medical book on the subject of midwifery, in a passage about infants suffering from frequent "sternutation and sneesynge." The term has long been used in serious medical contexts, but it has also been used for humorous effect. In 1850, for example, author Grace Greenwood observed that U.S. senators of divergent politics came together to share snuff: "A Whig may be seen passing his (snuff) box to a Democrat, who passes it to a Southern ultraist, who passes it to a Northern 'incendiary.' And all three forget their sectional differences in a delightful concert of sternutation. No business is too grave; no speaker too elegant to be sneezed at.":D


Always remembered in our hearts
Apr 17, 2002
To: Hannah Holmes
From: Tracy Mascolo
Subject: Tweeze and Sneeze

Dear Hannah,
I would like to know why almost every time I tweeze my eyebrows, I sneeze at least twice. I have sisters and friends who have this phenomenon also.

"I happen to be an eyebrow tweezer, and I don't sneeze. I've not heard of that," comes a bold confession of ignorance from Roberta Pagon, sneeze expert.
Pagon was among a flock of docs who, while sitting around a cafeteria table at a pediatrics conference some years back, fell into a discussion of their sternutatory habits. Four of the 10, they discovered, sneezed when exposed to bright light. Being scientists, they wrote up their discovery for publication. Being scientists, they gave the syndrome a really bad acronym. How they figured that "Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst Syndrome" adds up to ACHOO, instead of ADCHOOS, is beyond me. ("Helio" refers to the sun; "Opthalmic" to the eyes.)

Nonetheless it describes a real syndrome. In fact you probably know someone with ACHOO: Twenty to 30 percent of the population suffers this amusing abnormality.

The absence of a firm estimate reflects geneticists' low esteem for the subject and a tragic lack of scholarship.
In a nutshell when a person with ACHOO steps outdoors into sunlight, he or she suffers "nearly uncontrollable paroxysms of sneezing provoked in a reflex fashion," Pagon and her collaborators wrote. The probing practitioners noted that not only does ACHOO syndrome run in families (it's a dominant trait), but genetics also determines the number of sneezes.

"In my family it's three sneezes," says Pagon, a professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, "but someone else's family had eight." If that's starting to sound a little less amusing, consider that one of the subjects reported an ACHOO attack involving 43 outbursts.

ACHOO, however, isn't the only syndrome that can bring on an outburst. Sneezing, it turns out, can be inspired by a bewildering range of nonsensical stimuli.

Sneezing fits can be triggered by combing hair, tweezing eyebrows, rubbing the inner corner of the eye, and even by eating too much.

Yes, eating too much. Eleven years after ACHOO got its name, another scientific paper chronicled the sad fate of a man, his three brothers, one of his two sisters, his grandfather, his father, an uncle and the uncle's son. All must harass their hankies after a big meal, and the number of sneezes for each family member runs from three to 15. Imagine Thanksgiving at their house.
Naturally another scientist proposed another truly awful acronym, SNATIATION, which is a combination of "sneeze" and "satiation" and an acronym for "Sneezing Noncontrollably at a Time of Indulgence of the Appetite -- a Trait Inherited and Ordained to Be Named."

But even if it's clear when some people have this sneezing reflex, why they do remains a mystery.

"If 20 percent of people do it, you'd think there must be some advantage to it," says Pagon, but she won't even venture a guess as to what that advantage might be.
Reflexes are bodily functions that require no input from the brain. When you touch a hot stove, for instance, an "ouch" telegram travels up the nerves to the spinal cord, and the spinal cord replies with a directive to retract your hand. Genetic quirks involving reflexes are unusual -- and therefore intriguing -- even though they don't cause death and disease, Pagon says.

"Genetics is the study of human variation," Pagon says. "Sneezing is like blood groups and skin color. Because it doesn't make a difference [to your health], studying sneezing might be considered frivolous. But to know the location of one more gene that's part of the nervous system is a good thing."

I have a name ready for the sneeze gene when they find it: Gene Responsible for Outbursts and Acronymic Nausea, or GROAN.

Sternutation, n. A sneeze. It's lifted directly from Latin. The root bears a resemblance to the Latin word sternere (to cast down), and to sternum, which still refers to the central chest bone.
Jul 31, 2000
Yep, I'm a sneezer alright! Bright lights usually do it every time... at least 3 times in a row, usually 5-7, with my all time record being 10 sneezes in a row! :D


Thread Starter
Hello LightningBolt. Coo, that's a lot of sneezes. I can make myself sneeze by looking at something bright, but don't sneeze very often.:cool: :) Unless I have a cold!

Nov 16, 2002
LB, my brother does that...he sneezes 5 or 6 times in rapid succession. I've never heard him sneeze just once...its always a bunch. and of course, it always makes me giggle. :)
Jul 31, 2000
Valley, yeah it can be pretty funny! :)

I'm not shy about it either, if I gotta sneeze, it's like scratching an itch, I gotta sneeze! LOL
Sep 24, 2002
They say your heart stops for a instant when you sneeze !!:eek:
I'd be looking for a soft place to land there LB !

The sun (or bright light) doesn't cause me to sneeze, but if I feel one coming on, it speeds it up :)

(only in random would you see this topic...have to laugh when I think of some poor google searcher looking for support and he stumbles across the "sneeze" thread :D ...Rhett
Oct 10, 2001
Originally posted by LightningBolt:
Yep, I'm a sneezer alright! Bright lights usually do it every time... at least 3 times in a row, usually 5-7, with my all time record being 10 sneezes in a row! :D
Yep, that's me too. It can get scary when you're driving and suddenly the sun hits your eyes and you're trying to sneeze AND keep your eyes open so you don't run off the road! :eek: :eek: :eek:


Thread Starter
Hello LB, the dogs are fine thanks - we had a lovely walk today along the riverside - bright sunshine, but cold and frosty.

Oh, dear, I feel a sneeze coming on (I have a slight cold), but I often find that I CANT sneeze!!

Still waiting........nope, it's not happened yet:D

Wonder how long it will take between feeling as though I want to sneeze and it happening, sniff, sniff:p

You lucky people who can sneeze almost at will:cool:

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