Sex-induced sneezing: why it happens and what is honeymoon rhinitis

Sex-induced sneezing why it happens and what is honeymoon rhinitis

Sneezing after sex? It seems like a seemingly bizarre phenomenon, but there is a growing body of medical literature linking sneezing to orgasm, arousal, and even thoughts of sex . To date, the most widely supported hypothesis is that stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system may be involved in this event . Remember, in fact, that this controls both the sneeze reflex and sexual responses.

Why do we sneeze?

A sneeze is a semi-autonomous reflex (i.e. not totally dependent on our will) which manifests itself in the convulsive expulsion of air from the lungs through the nose and mouth and is developed to clear the nasal passages of particulate matter, infectious material and other irritants . _ Usually, it is therefore a biological response caused by foreign particles that irritate the nasal mucosa and trigger the release of histamine . In turn, this irritates the nerve cells in the nose, causing signals to be sent to the brain to initiate sneezing via the bloodstream network.trigeminal nerve .

The neural region involved in the sneeze reflex is located in the brainstem along the ventromedial aspect of the spinal trigeminal nucleus and the adjacent lateral pontine medullary reticular formation.

This region appears to control the pharyngeal, intrinsic laryngeal, and respiratory muscles , and the combined activity of these muscles forms the basis for the generation of a sneeze.

What is it about

Thinking about sex, having it, or reaching an orgasm evokes an uncontrolled sneezing attack in some people.

Sex sneezing: how and when do they occur? The person experiences sneezing as a result of erotic thoughts, arousal, sexual intercourse, or orgasm.

Sneezing occurs regardless of external nasal stimuli or allergens and can occur at any time during a sexual experience.

Sneezing and sex: what’s the link?

It may sound outlandish, but sneezing is not just a reflex that is developed to clear the nasal passages of particulate matter and other irritants, it can be induced by sexual ideation or orgasm .

But what could connect nasal and genital areas? In the late 1800s, Dr. Fleiss, a close friend of Freud’s, developed his theory of ” reflex nasal neurosis ,” suggesting the existence of erectile tissue in both the nasal and genital membranes. Unfortunately, Fleiss was never able to explain how the erectile tissue of these distant sites was connected, and after he developed a somewhat fanciful theory linking the nose to menstruation, his ideas were discredited.

Sex-induced sneezing why it happens and what is honeymoon rhinitisCurrently, stimulation of the parasympathetic system appears to be the most likely explanation of sex-induced sneezing based on the following principle: All reported sneezing triggers that arise independently of a nasal stimulus have parasympathetic outflow as a common variable .

Why does having sex or even thinking about sex make you sneeze?

The exact reasons why sex and sneezing are linked in some people are still being investigated and need further elucidation, but it has been speculated that “faulty wiring” in the autonomic nervous system (parasympathetic, specifically) is implicated . that is, the system that exercises unconscious control of, among other things, heart rate , digestion , and pupil dilation .

There are other examples of unrelated or unusual events that trigger sneezing : for example, 25% of people sneeze in response to bright light and, concurrently, there is parasympathetic activity leading to pupil constriction; rarer are people who sneeze after a meal, when their stomach is full .

When there is sexual ideation , there is a parasympathetic outflow causing venous dilation leading to penile erection or clitoral tumescence . Even with orgasm , there is parasympathetic activity to cause secretion from glands that produce components of male ejaculate or female lubrication.

At present, there is no anatomical explanation that shows how the nerves in the nose are connected to the nerves in the penis or clitoris. However, as various researchers point out, sneezing after sex does not cause any disease or dysfunction , so it is not a worrying condition that needs medical attention.

Mechanisms underlying sex-induced sneezing

But what happens during this reflex? What is the trigger?

There are three possible explanations for sex-induced sneezing, the third of which seems to be the most likely:

PSYCHIATRIC MECHANISM: sneezing represents the discharge of strong sexual tension. In fact, this theory is unreliable, because sneezing is an involuntary reflex.

HUMORAL MECHANISM: Another possible explanation concerns the existence of erectile tissue in the nose, which can swell during sexual arousal, triggering a sneeze. In detail, according to this theory, the erectile tissue in the nose (similar to the tissue of the genital organs) would react to the nitric oxide released during sexual excitement, which contributes to determining genital tumescence. This substance would end up in the bloodstream , eventually causing congestion and irritation of the nasal mucosa. However, this reaction would take a long time to manifest and, with respect to penile erection, nitric oxide is likely to be released locally and not enter the systemic circulation to any appreciable extent.

PARASYMPATHIC SUM MECHANISM: due to the immediacy of the response, it is more plausible that it is a neurological rather than a humoral mechanism that causes this phenomenon. The reason must be sought at the level of the autonomic nervous system: the neurons that will subsequently form the cranial outflow of the parasympathetic nervous system they originate in the vagal region of the embryonic neural tube, in a region not too distant from the presumed future center of the sneeze. Furthermore, the parasympathetic nervous system is phylogenetically ancient and is not somatically organized. There is evidence of persistent links between different components of the parasympathetic nervous system, whereby stimulation of one parasympathetic response will lead to other responses, including sneezing.
When there is sexual ideation, a parasympathetic outflow causes venous dilatation leading to tumescence of the penis or clitoris. Therefore, the efferents from the primary parasympathetic nucleus will also return to their embryonic origin in the vagal nuclei, which in turn can stimulate other parasympathetic responses.

Role of Acetylcholine

The parasympathetic nervous system primarily uses acetylcholine (ACh) as a neurotransmitter ; this acts on two types of receptors : the muscarinic cholinergic receptors and the nicotinic ones. Usually, when stimulated, the preganglionic nerve releases acetylcholine at the level of the ganglion, which acts on the nicotinic receptors of the postganglionic neurons. The postganglionic nerve then releases acetylcholine to stimulate the target organ’s muscarinic receptors . This nasal stimulation will, therefore, result in a sneezing response, due to a stimulus other than physical irritation.

An underestimated phenomenon, more common than you think

As early as the 19th century, a link between the nose and sexual arousal had been noted, but no credible reason was given to explain the phenomenon (Mackenzie, J., 1898. The Physiological and Pathological Relations between the Nose and the Sexual Apparatus of Man . The Journal of Laryngology, Rhinology, and Otology, 13(3), 109-123; Watson WC. Diseases of the Nose and its Accessory Cavities . London: Lewis; 1875). Fliess, a German otolaryngologist and close friend of Freud, developed his theory of ” reflex nasal neurosis”connecting the nasal mucosa with the genital areas, perhaps by finding erectile tissue in both areas. It was never explained how the erectile tissue of these distant anatomical sites is connected in his answer, but Fliess went on to expand on the theory , suggesting that dysmennorrhea was due to a nasal disorder. He expanded further, suggesting that the nose was connected to menstruation and that menstruation was an underlying cyclical tempo of all organs in the body. As a result, he suggested that a huge number of neurological disorders, psychological or sexual could be treated with drugs or surgery on the nose. His ideas of him became so fanciful that he was ridiculed and disgraced. The only subsequent report of this phenomenon in the medical literature dates back to a 1972 letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association describing a 69-year-old man complaining of severe sneezing soon after orgasm, again without psychiatric morbidity . There were two responses to this report, one proposing Fliess’s theories and suggesting that “no doubt” this was due to similarities between the erectile tissue of the nose and that of the penis, and suggesting topical nasal anesthesia. The other response was from Everett, who had investigated sneezing in response to sunlight and said some patients had also mentioned sneezing in response to sexual ideation during his investigations. However, he too eventually also suggested topical nasal anesthesia treatment for this symptom.

In 2008, Mahmood Bhutta (otolaryngologist at John Radcliffe Hospital) and Dr Harold Maxwell conducted the first large-scale investigation of the case with an article in the “Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine” (Sneezing induced by sexual ideation or orgasm: an under-reported phenomenon , Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 2008). In the publication, the two doctors explain that sexually induced sneezing may be genetically determined and may result from the way the central nervous system is wired .: «This reflex demonstrates evolutionary relics in the wiring of a part of the nervous system called the autonomic nervous system…This is the part that is beyond our control and that controls things like our heart rate and the amount of light that enters our eyes. our pupils …Sometimes the signals in this system cross over and that could be why some people sneeze when they think about sex.”

Honeymoon rhinitis

What is honeymoon rhinitis?

Sexually induced sneezing is related to another curious condition called honeymoon rhinitis ( or honeymoon nose). In practice, those who experience it experience nasal congestion during sexual intercourse or excitement .

The condition appears to be genetically determined and is caused by the presence of erectile tissue in the nose that can swell during sexual arousal, as a side effect of autonomic nervous system signals that trigger changes in the genitals of both men and women.

Then there are cases in which sex works, on the contrary, as a decongestant : to find out more, please consult the dedicated article.