What Does Your Sneeze Say About You?

"A-choo!"

The sneeze is a common sound this time of year as tree pollen and wheeze-inducing weeds hit their peak season.

But you may want to listen to all that sneezing: A body language expert said that a sneeze can offer a revealing look at someone's personality.

"Most of us have a sneeze style that we stick with throughout our lives that matches our personality," said Patti A. Wood, a body language expert who created the Achoo IQ Study for Benadryl.

Through survey research and observational studies, Wood categorized sneezers into four categories: the nice sneezer, the "be right" sneezer, the "get it done" sneezer and the enthusiastic sneezer.

"Although the sneeze is a reflexive action, it is seemingly much simpler body language than yawning and coughing," Wood said.

So what does your sneeze say about you?

If you're a single sneezer that turns away when you sneeze, Wood would classify you as a "nice sneezer." These people are characterized as being warm, helpful, supportive and nurturing of others.

Or are you the type to let a big loud sneeze out? These sneezers, or "get it done" sneezers, are found to be fast, decisive and to the point. They typically make the best leaders.

Do you always keep tissues handy and cover your mouth when you feel a sneeze coming? These are the "be right" sneezers and are typically the careful, accurate, deep-thinking type.

The last group are the "enthusiastic" sneezers, Wood said. These are the people with sneezes you notice -- such as your grandfather whose sneezes perhaps terrify you, or your co-worker who always sneezes five times. The enthusiastic sneezers were found to be charismatic and social and have the ability to motivate others.

Like Father ... Like Son?

It turns out your sneeze may not be as original as you think. According to researchers, a sneeze style may be a genetic trait passed down from generation to generation.

"There is a certain innate pattern to the way we sneeze, and it probably is genetic in some ways," said Dr. Frederic Little, assistant professor of medicine at Boston University.

In a study conducted in Sweden, researchers looked at the relationship between light and sneezing. They estimated that 20 percent of the population suffers a genetic syndrome called "autosomal dominant compelling helio-ophthalmic outburst syndrome," which causes them to sneeze from bright lights in their field of vision.

Stopping a Sneeze

And what about holding in a sneeze -- can that harm you?

"For the most part, no," Dr. Little said. "But if you have to sneeze, do it. Continued instances of holding in a sneeze could add pressure to your sinuses and cause lightheadedness."

Wood said that women are more likely to hold in a sneeze and do so about 30 percent of the time. She said the most common way to hold in a sneeze is to put your finger under your nose.

Dimensions of a Sneeze

Most of the research shows that a sneeze propels air from your nose at approximately 100 mph, dispersing more than 100,000 bacteria into the air at a range of 2 to 3 yards.

While that fact may be frightening to the germ weary, Little said you are more likely to get sick from picking up germs on a doorknob then from a sneeze particle in the air.

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