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Why does pepper make you sneeze? July 31, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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1 comment so far

Silence Dogood here. I just made a nice batch of hot, buttered popcorn for our friend Ben, and sprinkled it with black pepper and Trocomare (hot herbed salt). I handed him a huge bowl and departed to return to my computer and my writing deadline. Then I started sneezing. And sneezing, and sneezing, and sneezing.

Mind you, it wasn’t like I’d been snorting pepper or pouring hot sauce up my nose. I couldn’t feel any irritation at all. And yet, there I was, turned in an instant from civilized writer to sneeze-o-matic. Once I was able to sit upright and breathe again, I wondered why. Why would a little finely ground black pepper, nowhere near your face, make you sneeze?

The obvious answer is that it irritates the nasal passages, and the nerves in the nose send the brain a message to get rid of the irritant as quickly as possible. Achoo! But what if the pepper hasn’t actually even gotten into your nose, and you’re still sneezing like crazy? Power of suggestion? I think not. Trust me, I’d have far rather been sitting peacefully here at the computer working on the next chapter. Suggestion in my case would be “get back to writing, your next deadline is coming due and you’ll probably be murdered if you don’t meet it.”

If anyone out there has any insights into this phenomenon, please let me know. And meanwhile, I’ll be happy to accept donations of boxes of Kleenex.

                   ‘Til next time,