You’re probably familiar with the annoying, itching feeling you get when you need to sneeze but simply can’t. This can be frustrating, especially if you need to clear your nasal passages or relieve congestion.
Whether you already feel that familiar prickling sensation or you just want to clear out any irritants, it’s possible to sneeze on command. Here are a few tricks that you can try.
1. Wiggle a tissue in your nose
You can gently wiggle a tissue in the back of your nose to bring on a sneeze.
To do this, roll one side of a tissue into a point. Carefully put the pointed tip toward the back of one nostril and wiggle it around a bit.
You may feel a tickling sensation. This stimulates the trigeminal nerve, which sends a message to your brain that prompts a sneeze.
Be careful with this technique and make sure you’re not sticking the tissue too far up into your nostril. Some people recommend you hum while performing this technique to sneeze even more.
2. Look up toward a bright light
Even though not everyone has such a strong reaction, one in three people will sneeze once exposed to sunlight or bright light if they are about to sneeze already.
You may also experience a prickling sensation. You can try closing your eyes before exposing yourself to the bright light. Be careful not to look directly at any light source.
3. Sniff a spice
You’ve probably sneezed by accident after inhaling ground pepper. Black, white, and green pepper contain piperine, which irritates the nose. This can stimulate a sneeze by triggering nerve endings inside the mucous membrane of the nose. Your nose is actually trying to get rid of this irritant.
Be careful not to inhale too much or you can cause pain and burning. You can experiment with cumin, coriander, and crushed red pepper to see if they also stimulate sneezing.
4. Tweeze your brows
If you have a pair of tweezers handy, you can try plucking a single eyebrow hair to bring on a sneeze. This irritates the nerve endings in the face and stimulates the nasal nerve. Part of this nerve goes across the eyebrows. You may sneeze immediately, or it could take a few tries.
5. Pluck a nose hair
Although pulling a nose hair can be painful, it can stimulate the trigeminal nerve and make you sneeze. Even thinking about this may start to make your nose itch, as the lining of the nose is such a sensitive area.
6. Massage the roof of your mouth with your tongue
You can also use your tongue to massage the roof of your mouth to induce sneezing. This triggers the trigeminal nerve that runs along the top of your mouth.
To do this, press the tip of your tongue to the top of your mouth and bring it back as far as possible. You may have to experiment a bit to find the exact spot that works for you.
7. Rub the bridge of your nose
Massaging the bridge of your nose can also help to stimulate the trigeminal nerve. Use your fingers to massage the bridge of your nose in a downward motion until you feel a tickling sensation in the back of your nose.
Massaging the nose may also help to encourage drainage of any fluid. Use firm pressure, but be sure not to press too hard.
8. Eat a piece of chocolate
Eating dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao may help bring about a sneeze. This typically works for sneezes that aren’t allergy-induced. People who don’t regularly eat chocolate may have more success.
This is technically categorized as a photic sneeze reflex, because it causes sneezing by an unknown trigger. It’s not known exactly why it works, but it could be that some of the cocoa particles get into the nose.
9. Go somewhere cool
You may notice that you sneeze more when you are cold. The trigeminal nerve is stimulated by cold air felt in the face and surrounding skull area. The lining of the nasal passages is also affected as you breathe in colder air. Feeling cold and shivering can irritate the nerve and bring about a sneeze, so turning up the AC or going outside on a cold day may help.
10. Drink something fizzy
If you’ve ever inhaled the fizziness of a bubbly drink, you probably recall the tickling feeling in your nostrils. This is due to carbon dioxide that creates the bubbles. If you inhale or drink too much fizz, it can cause you to sneeze. This is because too much carbon dioxide has the potential to be harmful. Your nose is more sensitive than your tongue to carbon dioxide.