Sneezing is a sudden involuntary response to irritation of the mucous membranes of the throat or nose by foreign particles.
According to the Library of Congress, the pervasive myth about the heart not beating as you sneeze might be that, since the blood flow changes during sneezing, your heart skips some beats.
But is this true? We checked.
Dr David Rutlen, a cardiologist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in the US, says in this Youtube video that the heart does slow down.
“This is something comparable to a valsalva manoeuvre,” Rutlen says. “Built up pressure in the chest can cause a vagal reaction pertaining to the vagus nerve, which is part of the nervous system that controls the heart, that slows down the heart. The heart could hold in place for several seconds.”
“Even if it’s possible for the heart to stop, this is nothing to be concerned about,” says Rutlen.
According to Winchester Hospital in Massachusetts, US: “When you first inhale before sneezing, the pressure in your chest increases. Then, as you exhale forcefully during the sneeze the pressure drops.
“Alterations in blood flow to your heart produced by these pressure changes can affect the heart rate. However, the electrical activity in the heart marches on unimpeded – you remain very much alive throughout your sneeze!” – Grace Gichuhi
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