I. AGD: Every single day, thousands of particles escape our bodies at speeds of over 100 miles per hour, and we have little to no control over it. Although this may sound rather frightening, I'm talking about something you all are very familiar with and undoubtedly have experienced often in your life: sneezing. Now some of you may be thinking, if we have so much experience with this, why are we hearing an entire speech covering it?
II. THESIS: Although sneezing is a completely natural and common occurrence, many people know little of the causes, preventions, and myths connected with it. Many would probably be surprised of the detail involved in a seemingly simple action.
III. PREVIEW: Today, I hope to help you better understand these truths and myths, and to make sneezing not just an excuse to make an exceptionally loud noise in the middle of a quiet room.

[TRANSITION: In order to fully understand sneezing, one must first know the true causes of the action itself.]


I. There are many factors that can bring upon a sneeze, factors that may depend on the surroundings, the season, or the person themselves.
A. Some commonly known causes are things such as pollen, dust, hair, or allergies. These particles can irritate the mucus membranes of your nose or throat, causing your body to attempt to dislodge them with, [according to Dr. Frederic F. Little in the August 3rd, 2005 revision of MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia] "a sudden, forceful, involuntary burst of air through the nose and mouth" known as a sneeze.
B. But there are also some less commonly know causes. [As stated in their November 21st, 2003 update of Symptom: Sneezing] Sneezes can also be caused by things such as measles, change in air temperature, or even pregnancy. In fact, approximately one if four people have the autosomal dominant trait known as photic sneezing. This is when bright lights or drastic changes in lighting can cause a person to sneeze.

[TRANSITION: Now that you know a little more about some of the causes of sneezing, I will move on to its possible preventions.]

II. Although there are many wives' tales and sayings regarding the prevention of sneezing, there are also several medically tested methods.
A. Judy Tidwell [an economic service specialist] listed several of these methods [in her article "How to Prevent a Sneeze"].
i. These included things such as pinching the end of your nose if you feel a sneeze coming on. This will possibly remove the irritation from your mucus membrane, thus preventing the sneeze.
ii. She also listed blowing your nose periodically to keep it clean of debris and other material that might cause you to sneeze.
iii. The last prevention was to irrigate your nasal passages with saline solution often to wash out irritants.
B. Ms. Tidwell did, however, warn of one more commonly practiced technique to prevent sneezing. She wrote, "Once a sneeze begins, don't try to stop it. Suppressing a sneeze forces the air into your eustachian tubes and could damage your eardrums or transport infectious organisms into your ear canal."

[TRANSITION: Although there are many facts about sneezing, there are unfortunately even more myths.]

III. I will try to explain a few of these myths, and tell you the truth or lie behind them.
A. Perhaps the most associated phrase with sneezing is, "God bless you." Though many of us use these words, some might be surprised to hear their true meaning. At one time it was thought that during a sneeze, the soul could escape from the body, it was believed that this was the reason for illnesses. According to the legend, saying "God bless you," would prevent this from happening. Although tales like this will always spread, one should not worry. If your soul was truly leaving your body, it is doubtful anything you could say would make a difference.
B. There are two other myths that were proven false [on April 9th, 2004 by Dr. Robert H. Shmerling in "Does a Sneeze Mean Disease?"].
i. Some of you may have heard of the myth that your heart stops for a split second when you sneeze. Dr. Shmerling found no evidence of this being true or even possible.
ii. He also discounted the common myth that you cannot keep your eyes open during a sneeze. These myths have been spread through folklore and, as the Dr. said, have no medical standing.


I. SUMMARY: Today we have discussed the truth about sneezes. I have outlined what causes a sneeze and how to prevent it, and I debunked several myths related to sneezing.
II. CLOSURE: I'm sure at the start of this speech, everyone had their conceptions, and possibly misconceptions, about sneezing. Though we often believe we know a great amount about a topic as relevant to our lives as this one, with closer inspection we often find that there is still much to be learned. I hope that with the speech, some of those misconceptions were cleared and that now we can all sneeze happy.


Frederic, Dr. F. L. (8-3-05). MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved February 20, 2006, from

Shmerling, Dr. R. H. (4-9-04). InteliHealth. Does a Sneeze Mean Disease? Retrieved February 19, 2006, from

Symptom: Sneezing. (11-21-03). Retrieved February 20, 2006, from

Tidwell, J. (n.d.). How To Prevent a Sneeze. Retrieved February 21, 2006, from

Sneezing 8.4 of 10 on the basis of 1980 Review.