It’s Totally Possible to Sneeze Underwater (but It’s Not Very Pleasant)

Abi Travis - Author

Jul. 16 2020, Updated 6:06 p.m. ET

what happens if you sneeze underwater
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Every once in a while, we find ourselves wondering about the answers to super random questions. Why do milk jugs have those weird circles in their sides? What happens if you eat Oobleck? What if you suddenly had hands for feet and feet for hands?

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Today, our curious nature has led us to wonder: What happens if you sneeze underwater? Luckily, we were able to find an answer. Here’s what we found out.

what happens if you sneeze underwater scuba
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What happens if you sneeze underwater?

First of all, let’s address the obvious first question: Is it even possible to sneeze underwater? The answer is yes! In fact, pretty much every involuntary bodily function that you do on land can also be done underwater. That includes things like coughing, yawning, releasing gas (either via burping or … otherwise), and even vomiting. Being underwater doesn’t automatically put a stop to your reflexes, and that’s just what sneezing is — a reflex.

That being said, sneezing underwater is not a very common occurrence. That’s because most of the irritants that usually trigger the sneeze reflex (such as dust or other allergens), don’t really occur underwater. You’re also not regularly inhaling anything underwater (if you are, you are doing it wrong!), so there isn’t much chance for your nasal membrane to become irritated and produce a sneeze.

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However, sneezes aren’t solely triggered by irritants. Some people have what’s called a photic sneeze reflex, meaning that sunlight can sometimes induce a sneeze. And sometimes, sneezes just happen randomly. Which means (drumroll, please) they can also happen when you’re underwater.

what happens if you sneeze underwater pool
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The topic of underwater sneezing has come up in a number of scuba diving forums, and the consensus seems to be that sneezing underwater is pretty much exactly like sneezing on land. It’s weird and takes some getting used to, but it doesn’t, like, turn your body inside-out or anything. The trickiest part is remembering to keep your regulator in your mouth so that you can take a deep breath in (as every sneezer does) without inhaling water. 

You also want to try to sneeze through your mouth rather than your nose. If any mucus is produced by the sneeze, you should be able to clear it out with your purge button. (By the way, this is the same advice you should follow if you ever have to vomit while diving. It’s gross, we know.)

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what happens if you sneeze underwater reflex
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If you need to sneeze and you’re not scuba diving, you can’t breathe underwater (duh), so you should probably try to surface before you let the sneeze rip. Otherwise, you might end up sucking in a bunch of water right before you sneeze, which would be quite unpleasant.

So, there you have it. You can totally sneeze underwater! That being said, we don’t really recommend bringing a bunch of pepper into the bathtub to try to induce sneezing. You do you, but remember: Just because you can do something, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

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