Here's why some people sneeze when they have an orgasm

Here's why some people sneeze when they have an orgasm
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Apparently, an orgasm – or even thinking about sex – can send some people into an uncontrollable bout of sneezing. And it could be more common than you think.

Dr Harold Maxwell, a consultant psychiatrist at West Middlesex University Hospital in London, first identified the phenomenon after a middle-aged man complained about sneezing fits whenever he had a sexual thought – something that occurred throughout his adult life.

This bizarre encounter prompted Maxwell and colleague Mahmood Bhutta, a surgeon at Wexham Park Hospital, to delve into an under-reported study on "sneezing induced by sexual ideation or orgasm."

They discovered a record dating back to 1972. The letter, found in the Journal of the American Medical Association, detailed a 69-year-old man suffering from severe sneezing after orgasm. He was simply sent away with topical nasal anaesthesia for his symptom.

"It may also be seen as embarrassing and people perhaps don't want to talk about it," said Dr Bhutta.

To gauge how big of an issue 'sex sneezing' really is, the highly unscientific study scrolled through online chatrooms and identified "17 people of both sexes reporting sneezing immediately upon sexual ideation" and "three people after orgasm."

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They explained: "It also seems that the two phenomena do not occur in the same person, i.e. that these are two distinct entities: sneezing with sexual ideation or sneezing with orgasm. No people mentioned that they suffered neurological or rhinological disease."

The conditions have been speculated on for a surprisingly long time. In the 19th century, two researchers, WC Watson in 1875 and JN Mackenzie in 1884, examined the link between the nose and the genitals.

Fliess, a young German otolaryngologist and friend of Freud, later developed a theory of 'nasal reflex neurosis' "linking the nasal mucous membranes with the genital areas, perhaps due to the finding of erectile tissue in both areas."

The researchers put it down to signals in the autonomic nervous system, though "further investigation in this field" is necessary to understand the self-reported nature of the condition fully.

"It certainly seems odd, but I think this reflex demonstrates evolutionary relics in the wiring of a part of the nervous system called the autonomic nervous system," Dr Bhutta told the BBC at the time.

"This is the part beyond our control, and which controls things like our heart rate and the amount of light let in by our pupils. Sometimes the signals in this system get crossed, and I think this may be why some people sneeze when they think about sex."

The study concluded: "Further investigation in this field may help us to understand the sneeze reflex in more depth, and also allow us to give explanation and reassurance to the possibly significant number of people affected by this curious phenomenon."

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