Sneezing Misconceptions

It’s looked down upon not to say bless you when someone sneezes, but why do we say it?


Eryn Rainer

A person sneezing into a tissue.

ACHOO!! “Bless you,” they say. It’s common courtesy and polite to say bless you when someone sneezes; even a four-year-old could tell you that. But why do we say bless you? Is it because your heart stops? To be honest, that conception is as untrue as saying, by eating watermelon seeds you’ll grow a watermelon in your stomach.

Does Your Heart Stop When You Sneeze?

A sneeze occurs when something enters your nose such as a piece of dirt or germ. When this happens, an electrical signal is sent to the brain allowing for a sneeze to occur to clear out the foreign substance.

The heart doesn’t exactly stop when you sneeze. “The heart’s rhythm is momentarily thrown off-kilter.” Also, the electrical signals control heartbeats and the heart rate, and are not affected when a person sneezes; therefore, your heart doesn’t stop.

There is a medical condition called sneeze syncope in which fainting can occur during a sneeze, yet this condition is uncommon.

…When there is a prolonged delay before the heart’s next beat… [the] beat is then more forceful and more noticeable”

— Dr. Richard Conti

It’s understandable some would believe that the heart stops due to sneezing. The misconception could be due to “the sensation of having your heart skip a bit. When there is a prolonged delay before the heart’s next beat… [the] beat is then more forceful and more noticeable,” Dr. Richard Conti, who was interviewed by the Library of congress, explained.

 Why Do We Say “Bless You?”

The reason why we say “bless you” has a variety of beliefs, being that evil spirits can enter our body after sneezing. Others say that during the bubonic plague, Pope Gregory I suggested saying “God Bless You,” when someone would sneeze in hopes of protecting them from death.

Others beliefs include that by sneezing your soul could be released from your body, or that sneezing could release evil spirits which could then attack others.