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Sexually induced sneezing

Abstract

Sexually induced sneezing is a phenomenon characterized by sneezing during orgasm or sexual arousal.

Signs and symptoms

The person experiences sneezing as a result of sexual thoughts, arousal, intercourse, or orgasm. Sneezing occurs independent of external nasal stimuli or allergens, and may occur at any point during a sexual experience. Both men and women are affected by the phenomenon.

Causes

Dr. Mahmood Bhutta, an otorhinolaryngologist at John Radcliffe Hospital, states that sexually induced sneezing may be genetically determined, and may result from the way the central nervous system is wired:

"[T]his reflex demonstrates evolutionary relics in the wiring of a part of the nervous system called the autonomic nervous system. [...] This is the part beyond our control, and which controls things like our heart rate and the amount of light let in by our pupils. [...] Sometimes the signals in this system get crossed, and I think this may be why some people sneeze when they think about sex."

Another possible explanation concerns the existence of erectile tissue in the nose, which may become engorged during sexual arousal, triggering a sneeze.

History

The phenomenon was noted as early as 1897 in John Noland Mackenzie's remarks before the British Medical Association at a meeting in Montreal. It was later commented upon in print in 1901 in Gould and Pyle's "Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine":

In 2008, Dr Mahmood Bhutta and Dr. Harold Maxwell performed the first full-scale investigation of the phenomenon. Before their research, the most recent mention in published research was a letter to the "Journal of the American Medical Association" in 1972, which involved a 69-year-old man who had bouts of severe sneezing after orgasm. The two doctors noted that men and women often sought help or explanations for the disorder on Internet chat rooms and forums. Bhutta stated that these people often felt embarrassed bringing up the disorder with a doctor, and were more comfortable seeking advice anonymously. The Internet, he stated, could potentially be a new tool for medical researchers to investigate unusual or embarrassing symptoms that patients might not be comfortable discussing with their physicians.