How To Make Yourself Sneeze When Nothing Else Is Working

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Ever get that feeling like you're about to sneeze, but you can't seem to break through the threshold and actually sneeze? Whether you're suffering allergies, if you're sick, or you just simply have that urge to clear our your nasal passage, being stuck in unable-to-sneeze purgatory is deeply frustrating. And while people have all sorts of tips and tricks for how to stop a sneeze, (say "grapefruit", press your finger under your nose, or say "pickles") where's all the advice for how to start a sneeze? As it turns out, there is actually a way to make yourself sneeze, but only some people can do it — and it's based on genetics.

About a quarter of the population inherited the ability to sneeze reflexively, a trigger induced by looking at a bright light. According to Boing Boing, the ability is genetic and is called photic reflex sneezing, but it has been given the nickname "the sun sneeze" because it most commonly occurs when people (with the gene) go from a dark place to a naturally light place. People who have this reaction to bright light have a specific variation within their inter genetic region, meaning the ability to control your sneezes with light exposure is definitely not something you can learn how to do. It's something you're born with, and not necessarily always a pleasure as much as it is a nuisance. But even if you don't have that genetic predisposition, there are still ways to make yourself sneeze. Here are a few learned sneeze-inducing skills that definitely aren't in your DNA.

Sniff A Spice

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Be careful not to actually inhale the spice, but take a whiff of pepper, cumin or coriander to gently irritate your nose and make yourself sneeze.

Tissue Tickle

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Take a tissue, twist a corner into a point and stick it in your nose. Be careful not to jab or poke the inside of your nose. Be gentle and tickle your nose from the inside. This should cause a sneeze!

Tweeze Your Eyebrows

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This has probably happened to you before by accident; you're plucking your eyebrows and you get one of those light-colored hairs that's painful to pull and your eyes water and you sneeze. Now try it on demand!

Pull Your Nose Hair

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This might be painful, but it will definitely work! Grab a nose hair with a set of tweezers and pull. You might not even have to pull the hair out all the way to sneeze.

Breathe Cold Air

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If it's cold outside, poke your head out the door and take a deep, full breath through your nose. If it's warm outside, stick your head in the freezer and take a goof whiff. The incoming of thin icy air should irritate your nose just enough to induce a sneeze.

Squeeze The Bridge Of Your Nose

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Pinching and squeezing the bridge of your nose while humming can help to stimulate the reflex to sneeze with the combination of vibration and pressure. But be very careful to remove your hands once the sneeze comes on, you can get air trapped in between your lugs, or pop your ear drums if you pinch your nose while you sneeze!

Press Your Tongue To The Roof Of Your Mouth

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Pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth can stimulate the trigeminal nerve which will cause you to sneeze! This very same nerve can actually stop a sneeze, too.

Chug Soda Water

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You might have noticed this on your own, but sometimes when you drink a fizzy drink, the little bubbles stimulate a sneeze. You can also hold your nose over the soda water and let the carbonation touch your nose directly.

Chew Gum

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Chewing a minty gum or sucking on a super minty candy can help to activate the sneeze response in a similar way that smelling spices can.

Look At The Light

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To see if you have the special photic reflex sneeze in your arsenal, take a look at a bright light. Natural light is best, but even a quick glance at a bright lamp might do the trick. But if you don't feel the sneeze coming, look away. You don't want to look directly at natural or artificial light, as it can irreparably damage your eyes.

This article was originally published on April 3, 2018 and was updated on June 27, 2019.

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