The Real Reason People Sneeze More Than Once

It can be loud and sometimes at the most inopportune moments, but sneezes never seem to be a "one-and-done" situation. In fact, many times people sneeze two to three times in a row — and sometimes even more. As you run for a tissue to muffle your latest sneeze, have you ever wondered why people don't typically sneeze only once?

Experts say the amount of times you sneeze is all about the force behind how hard your nose blows. You feel the urge to sneeze when a foreign particle enters your nose and reaches the nasal mucosa, releasing histamines and irritating your nose's nerve cells (via Popular Science). The sneeze pushes out the irritant, but sometimes one sneeze just doesn't cut it — especially if your nose's nerve cells aren't as forceful as others who may only need one sneeze.

So why does three seem to be the magical number of sneezes? Dr. Jordan S. Josephson, a sinus specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told LiveScience, "One sneeze probably loosens it up, the second sneeze gets it to the front of the nose and the third sneeze gets it out."

What causes you to sneeze?

Sneezes can be caused by a viral respiratory infection like a cold, as well as a number of irritants like cold air, allergens like pollen and pet dander, smoke or pollution, and particles of dust, mildew, and mold. People who have allergies may continually sneeze because the allergen is still in the air, according to Popular Science. This differs from those who are sick with a cold, where you will typically have more time in between sneezes.

There are some exceptions to when and why a sneeze could occur. Between 10 to 35% of people will sneeze due to an inherited condition called a photic sneeze reflex, which triggers uncontrollable sneezing by staring at bright lights (via Popular Science). A sneeze may also be on the horizon for you if you just finished a large meal. A condition called snatiation results in people sneezing when their stomach is full, according to LiveScience.

The next time you encounter a sneezing fit, you can try to plug or rub your nose to get the irritant out yourself. If that doesn't work, just cover your nose and mouth and wait for the "achoo" ride to end on its own.