The way we sneeze tells a lot about our personalities, according to an American study.
A loud, explosive sneeze is likely to come from an outgoing, demonstrative person while someone who’s shy will try and hold back, resulting in a stifled, Minnie-Mouse style expulsion, says neurologist Dr Alan Hirsch.
‘Sneezes are like laughter,’ he adds. ‘Some laughs are loud, some are soft. And it’s similar with sneezing. It will often be the same from youth onward in terms of what it sounds like.
‘It’s more of a psychological thing and represents the underlying personality or character structure,’ Dr Hirsch, also a psychiatrist and founder of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, tells NBC in the US.
Sneezing is a reflex action caused when irritants such as germs, pollen and dust infiltrate the nose lining and the brain sends out a message to get rid of it, triggering a deep breath that gets held in the lungs, tightening the chest muscles and building pressure.
The tongue gets pushed against the roof of the mouth, forcing breath to rush out through the nose - all in the time it takes to go achoo!
‘I have world famous kitten sneezes,’ says Susan Frykholm, a 31-year-old multimedia sales specialist from Seattle, in the report. ‘I’m not trying to be cute but people usually start laughing at how ‘precious’ they are.’
‘Mine are like a revolutionary war cannon,’ adds Dan Fine, a 54-year-old IT consultant who is also from Seattle.
Tara Spicer, a 29-year-old copywriter from Washington, has her own reasons for her sneezing habits.
‘I’m a sneeze stifler. I’ve always pinched my nose to mute the noise. I think it’s a subconscious rebellion against my grandmother, who raised me much of my life, and took pride in her ear-shattering siren-sneeze,’ she says.
Others describe sneezes sounding like screams or in rapid succession.
‘In general, sneezing is an involuntary phenomenon, part of the body’s mechanism of defense, a way of clearing out bacteria or other agents that would be injurious,’ Dr Gordon Siegel, a Chicago ear, nose and throat doctor tells NBC.
‘That being said, you can control to a degree the way it comes out.’
Dr Siegel, an assistant clinical professor at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, tells how a friend used a colourful expression to punctuate his sneezes.
‘When he sneezes, he likes it to come out saying ‘horses***’ and he’s got it down,’ he says. ‘There is partial control of the final product.’
The experts say the bone structure of the face and shape of the nose may play a smaller role in the different sneezing styles.
But Dr Siegel insists: ‘What we perceive as the sneezing sound is not really affected significantly by the nose structure.’
Most people don’t think too much about sneezing. They just happen naturally, he adds.