How do I learn to sneeze softly?
June 18, 2008 7:12 PM   Subscribe

How do I learn to sneeze softly?
posted by riffola to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think the way a person sneezes is genetically programmed. I have my dad's LOUD sneeze. My mother refuses to believe that the yell that we both do during a sneeze is involuntary, yet it is. I have learned, however, that I can keep myself from yelling during a sneeze by clenching my teeth together. My sneeze is still not a soft, discreet sneeze, but it's considerably lessened in volume.
posted by orange swan at 7:18 PM on June 18, 2008

I am a loud sneezer. ("Loud" as in the guys who live in the apartment above me once shouted "holy crap, was that a sneeze!?" when I was in my living room while they were having a party.) After years of trying unsuccessfully to quiet my sneezes or re-learn the art of the sneeze, I've resigned myself to accepting that some people just sneeze louder than others. Handkerchiefs help to muffle the sound, but I've yet to find a method for self-softening.
posted by phunniemee at 7:19 PM on June 18, 2008

I don't think you can unless you try to suppress it on it's way out, but that seems like a bad idea when you consider a sneeze is released at about 150 kilometers per hour. You could burst blood vessels or something!

My grandpa's sneeze always came out like he was yelling "fuck off!", it was utterly hilarious in the wrong company, and the right company too, heh.
posted by zarah at 7:20 PM on June 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

...And in my case, it's definitely genetic. Mom is a crazy-loud sneezer.
posted by phunniemee at 7:20 PM on June 18, 2008

I think some people just sneeze louder than others, but I managed to change my sneeze noise from a yell-y "ha-tchoo" to an arguably more dainty "ha-tzzz" by making different shapes with my mouth at the end.

I figure at least it's different...
posted by crinklebat at 7:23 PM on June 18, 2008

This needs really good timing....cough (but not deeply) at the same time you sneeze, and that should soften it. It works for me.
posted by sixcolors at 7:25 PM on June 18, 2008

I'm usually a loud sneezer. On occasions when i feel a sneeze coming, I close my mouth and consciously try not to inhale from my nose. Sometimes I use my hand to cover my nostrils so i cant inhale. My sneezes tend to be softer since there's less air forced out of my lungs. Using your hand to cover your nostrils has the added benefit of covering your mouth when you sneeze to be polite.
posted by aGee at 7:25 PM on June 18, 2008

I concur with the above; I'm a loud sneezer (I nearly fall down) and I've tried to minimize things. Without much luck, although I did burst an eardrum once. So, y'know, there's that.
posted by aramaic at 7:32 PM on June 18, 2008

My mom sneezes amazingly loudly--it invariably startles anyone within 30 feet of her. You could prevent the sneeze in the first place. Remember those old cartoons and Three Stooges when someone would put a finger under another's nose? Guess what? That works. When you feel a sneeze coming on, take your index finger and put pressure above your lip, where the bottom of your nose meets your face. I don't know why, but it certainly works.
posted by zardoz at 7:37 PM on June 18, 2008

I stopped being a loud, wet sneezer. It's all about modulating the voice and breath out, I think. I just dont' shoot spitty air out of my mouth anymore, I breathe a short, dry staccato puff out my mouth. I can also totally stifle them down to itty bitty silent hep-ttts. It's really hard to describe... sometimes it doesn't work, if I'm really sick or it's a fast, surprising sneeze. I refuse to believe lous sneezers can't help it. Animals aren't loud sneezers. The vocal cords are NOT required in that process.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:40 PM on June 18, 2008

I swallow my sneezes. It scares my husband a little - he says one day I will explode. It's definitely learned behavior. I have no idea why I decided to do this, but I do remember I used to sneeze out, instead of swallow them back. It's kind of like pressing down with your nose and jaw, and compressing the sneeze, as you do it. Clenching your butt and pelvis (Kegel) muscles helps with the compression.
posted by Melinika at 7:40 PM on June 18, 2008

Melinika, my med-student-sister someday told me that doing that causes high pressure in what I term "your insides", possibly endangering your eardrum. Google answer.
posted by papafrita at 8:23 PM on June 18, 2008

Releasing more of the air through my mouth than through my nose helped make my sneezes quieter.
posted by Krrrlson at 8:28 PM on June 18, 2008

I used to do the cutesy, dainty literally-saying-the-word-"achoo!" sneeze when I was around other people until my coworkers started making fun of me for it and told me I should just go full force, "baby." I then discovered my inner ear-splitting yell sneeze and let me tell you, my life (and nostrils) have never been better. Don't be afraid of your sneeze power. Embrace that shit. Make love to it. Rrrrrrrrrrowwwr.

ps. It really does feel liberating, I'm not being facetious, don't hold those suckers in because it hurts and it's probably not good for you as others have noted. Besides, whenever I do the dainty sneeze I just keep sneezing and sneezing until whatever needs to come out comes out.
posted by Menomena at 8:59 PM on June 18, 2008 [5 favorites]

I try to expel all the air I can before I sneeze, and sometimes I manage to reduce my sneezes to a simple "tch!"
posted by clearlydemon at 9:02 PM on June 18, 2008

Don't use your vocal chords while sneezing. Makes a huge difference.
posted by jouke at 10:49 PM on June 18, 2008

I've noticed that after a hard session of upper abdomen excercises (crunches, etc), when the abs are really STIFF (from a few hours to the next day or so...), I'm unable to sneeze loudly. It's almost like the body's trying to save your abs from exploding! But it feels like an incomplete sneeze and bothers the hell out of me until I can sneeze properly again. YMMV though...
posted by cyanide at 2:49 AM on June 19, 2008

Be more sanitary and more muffled by sneezing into your sleeve.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:13 AM on June 19, 2008

papafrita, I neither pinch my nose nor clamp my mouth shut, as indicated to be "dangerous" in your link. I just sort of clamp down on it as it happens - it feels swallowed back. It still comes out and my mouth is open - the pressure of the sneeze is released.
posted by Melinika at 5:48 AM on June 19, 2008

I agree with zardoz, I enjoy a good enthusiastic yell of a scream but sometimes (church, etc) you gotta stifle it. The index finger laid under the nose (like a fake moustache) works for me too.
posted by xholisa13 at 7:01 AM on June 19, 2008

Um, sneeze :)
posted by xholisa13 at 7:04 AM on June 19, 2008

I have a very loud sneeze, usually, but at the moment I am recovering from major abdominal surgery with an 8-inch incision healing across my middle. I now sneeze quite demurely (and painfully). I think this has something to do with what cyanide describes.
posted by altolinguistic at 7:22 AM on June 19, 2008

Like clearlydemon, I exhale all my air when I sense the sneeze is imminent. On the down side, it can look like you're having a brief unexplained seizure. If I manage to exhale, I usually attempt to actually hold the sneeze in, but I refuse to be help liable if you blow one of your eyes out of your head trying it too.
posted by jefftang at 8:26 AM on June 19, 2008

I think I sneeze like papafrita described... I keep my mouth shut and I clench my jaw/teeth, and my sneezes are often silent. (I've also been told it's not good for my insides... but I guess I don't want to break the habit just yet heh.) I used to be a really loud sneezer when I was a kid; at one point my classmates knew me because of my sneezes (if you get what I mean..). So this was a learned mechanism. It helps to start out by sort of cupping/pressing your hands over your face such that your fingers (particularly forefingers) are pressing against the sides of your nose, while your thumbs lie underneath your jaw (to support it and prevent your mouth from opening) - this way, it's easier to contain the sneeze. After awhile (muscle memory, maybe?) you learn to control the sneeze without the help of your hands (unless the sneeze is really big).
posted by aielen at 1:34 PM on June 19, 2008

A trick I learned from one of those fun fact books when I was a kid was that you can stop a sneeze by tickling the roof of your mouth with your tongue when you feel it coming on. It really works. If it doesn't stop the urge completely, it definitely weakens it.
posted by vronsky at 2:57 PM on June 19, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks all for the comments and suggestions!
posted by riffola at 8:28 PM on June 19, 2008

Late to the party here - I tend to get sneezes in batches, I don't sneeze once but three or four times. I deal with this when trying to be polite by breathing out all the way - there's no air to generate the noise so I just make a soft coughing sound.
posted by tomble at 3:16 AM on June 27, 2008

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