Here’s something to think about the next time a stranger on the subway is suddenly seized by a sneezing fit: A new report [subscription required] describes people who experience uncontrollable sneezing when thinking about sex, or after doing the deed itself. The researchers, who conducted an admittedly unscientific survey by scouring Internet chat rooms, believe that this strange phenomenon is more common than reported.
Harold Maxwell and Mahmood Bhutta of West Middlesex University Hospital in London decided to investigate the issue after one patient, a middle-aged man, complained of uncontrollable fits of sneezing when thinking about sex. Searching through the medical literature, they could find only one similar case of a man who reported severe sneezing after orgasm. Perhaps the phenomenon is under-reported because people who suffer from it are embarrassed, they thought.
So the researchers turned to the anonymity of the Web: After a survey of chatrooms, the researchers found 17 people who reported sneezing triggered by sexual thoughts, and three who reported sneezing triggered by orgasm.
The researchers think the link between sex and sneezing is a problem with the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls a slew of involuntary reflexes, including those associated with sexual arousal and those controlled by cranial nerves, such as sneezing. The parasympathetic nervous system also controls reflexes involved in digestion and vision. No wonder many people (up to 25 percent, in a Swedish study) report sneezing induced by bright lights (photic sneeze reflex) and a few people even report sneezing caused by a full stomach.
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Image: flickr / Mussels