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Achoo! It's been a particularly sneeze-worthy season

Here's a riddle for you. What's something that occurs more often in the spring, and when it happens, we automatically close our eyes?

For some, the "event" can be triggered by sunshine. For others, the catalyst is exercise or eyebrow plucking — or sex. And, of course, there are all those allergies.

The answer is sneezing.

Today, I'm chock full of unexpected facts related to the simple "achoo." But, excuse me for a second "¦ "Bless you, dear."

My husband has always been a voracious sneezer. When our children were young, they took great delight in counting his consecutive sneezes. I seem to recall nine was the record. But maybe it was 11. There's reportedly a woman in Worcestshire, England, who had 978 days of constant sneezing. I hope some tissue maker sent her coupons or a few embroidered handkerchiefs; they should put her picture on Kleenex boxes.

In our household, this season has been particularly sneeze-worthy. But there's always a bright side — the grandchildren are coming for a visit soon and the sneeze-counting game has the opportunity to move through the generations.

Let me pause again. For those who are having a particularly challenging year loaded with relentless sneezing, I do not mean to make light of your situation and wish you well, but I also recognize that you could use a little humorous diversion. Ever trying.

WebMD, my preferred website for health-related information (www.webMD.com) has fact-based information about sneezing behaviors and corrects inaccurate folklore. MedlinePlus (www.nim.nih.gov) is another good option.

According to WebMD, sneezing occurs when a nerve transmission tells your brain something in your nose has to come out. A sneeze clears your nose of bacteria, and it happens at 100 miles per hour, sending a spray of 100,000 germs into the air. Have that box of tissues handy. If repetitive sneezing is totally out of control, maybe you need to change the furnace filter or wash your bed linens in much hotter water. Maybe you should stop letting the dog sleep on the bed.

As a last resort, you could move to an area with a lower pollen count. But you like living here, so don't consider that until you've dealt with the dog-on-the-bed issue.

Give no credence to the belief if you sneeze, it means company is coming. And if your cat sneezes, it's not necessarily going to rain. The cat should not sleep on the bed either, by the way.

Did you know the blessing that many of us say after someone sneezes is derived from the Greek word for sneeze, "pneuma," which means "soul" or "spirit." The post-sneeze "Bless you" comes from the ancient belief that a sneeze is a prophetic sign from the gods and deters the devil from entering into your body.

One final item that definitely needs clarification — I have it on good report that your eyes will not pop out of your head when you sneeze forcefully. But, the blood pressure behind the eyes may increase a little. Maybe you should keep your eyes closed, just in case.

Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at Sharon@hmj.com.