We all sneeze for the same reason. When irritants like dust, animal dander, and pollen get into our noses, the brain sends a signal to get rid of them. We take a deep breath, our chest muscles tighten, pressure pushes our tongues to the roof of the mouth, and then the air forcefully leaves through our noses. Voila, a sneeze.
That doesn’t mean all sneezes are the same though. The way that a sneeze sounds is determined by multiple factors; the most basic one is anatomy. The noise a sneeze makes depends on how the air exists your nose and mouth, so the size of your nostrils can affect how loud it is. People with a larger lung capacity generally have bigger sneezes because they can take in and let out more air. If someone has multiple sneezes in succession, that just means a single sneeze couldn’t clear out all of the irritants. (Check out these 12 weird facts about sneezing.)
A more surprising influence on how people sneeze is their personalities. Patti Wood, a spokesperson for Benadryl, conducted a study of more than 500 people called the Benadryl Sneeze Analysis and determined that there are four types of sneezes, each linked to a certain personality. They are…
The Nice or Sensitive Sneezer: This person typically sneezes only once and turns away from other people when it happens. He or she works to avoid conflict, values relationships, and has a nurturing, supportive attitude.
The Be Right Sneezer: This person is more likely to cover his or her mouth during a sneeze than other sneezers. He or she is careful and precise, spending a lot of time thinking about what to say before actually saying it.
The Get It Done Sneezer: This person holds in sneezes if possible (which is actually a very bad idea) and has especially loud sneezes. He or she is a decisive leader who works quickly to get things accomplished as fast and efficiently as possible.
The Enthusiastic Sneezer: This person makes a big deal out of a sneeze so other people will notice, whether it’s extra loud, funny-sounding, or involves multiple sneezes. He or she is charismatic, spontaneous, and not afraid to vocalize his or her feelings.
Our surroundings can also change how we sneeze. According to Wood’s findings, 45 percent of participants said their sneezes in public sound different from their sneezes in private, primarily because they don’t want to disturb anyone around them.
Now that you know how and why you sneeze, don’t forget to say “Bless you”—or one of its international variants—when you hear one.