Sneezing Study Unlocks a New Avenue for Sinusitis Treatment
Why do we sneeze? Various explanations have found their way into public consciousness over the years, but the most popular remains the most plausible: we sneeze to clear our noses. Something gets in there, be it a pollutant or a particulate, and the sneeze is our body’s resounding retort.
But now researchers have discovered a secondary benefit to sneezing: that explosion seems to stimulate the cilia in our nostrils and airways into high gear, helping to move irritants and particles up and out of our lungs for several minutes. The result is a far lengthier cleansing process than most people would imagine, one that goes far beyond the initial blast.
Now here’s the interesting part: it turns out that many people who suffer from infected or compromised sinuses do not have the same reaction to a sneeze. Here’s National Geographic:
The team took cells from the nostrils of healthy people as well as sinusitis patients. The researchers grew the cells in an incubator for several weeks, until the cells formed the same type of lining that’s in our sinuses.
The scientists then puffed air on the lining—a sort of “in vitro sneeze”—and “sure enough, we proved the hypothesis. If you puff air on these cells, [their cilia] beat faster,” Cohen said.
When the team took tissue from sinusitis patients and puffed air on the tissue, however, the cilia did not beat faster.
“What I think is going on when they sneeze,” Cohen said, is that sinusitis patients aren’t getting the same cellular response as patients who don’t have the syndrome.
And just like that, a new research avenue blinks into existence: if scientists can figure out a way to recreate the strong cilia response in patients with sinusitis, they may be able to reduce a host of uncomfortable sinusitis symptoms such as pain, congestion and headaches.
So the next time you say “Bless you,” be sure and throw in a small extra thought for the cilia who are just clocking in to work.