Why Do We Say “Bless You” When Someone Sneezes?

I heard someone sneeze today and it was immediately followed by “blessings” from all around.

Do you ever notice that some people expect a “bless you” in response to their sneezing? I’m not one to bless people when they sneeze so I have received some puzzled looks when I haven’t acknowledged the sneezer.

So who came up with this business of blessing the sneezer?

The practice of blessing someone when they sneeze dates back to 77 A.D. It was thought that when someone sneezed that their soul could be thrown from their body so to protect the soul from being inhabited by evil spirits, people would say “bless you” or “God Bless You” to shield someone against evil. It was also used during the plague when someone sneezed as an immediate response to bless the person against falling ill with the plague. In 590, Pope Gregory made a declaration of unceasing prayer. Part of his command was that anyone sneezing be blessed immediately.

It was also believed that the heart stops beating when someone sneezes and saying “Bless You” is a way to help someone survive it and their heart continue beating. Studies have shown that this isn’t the case. The intrathoracic pressure in your body momentarily increases when we sneeze. This will decrease the blood’s flow back to the heart, and the heart will compensate for this by altering its normal heart rhythms to momentarily adjust. However, the electrical activity of the heart is not affected during the sneeze.

Today most people just say it out of habit and don’t really know why they do it other than the fear of being thought as rude if they don’t do it.

So there’s nothing really spiritual about sneezing and saying “bless you” isn’t going to make a difference to the health of the sneezer. It’s just something we’ve always done and we do it automatically.

Here are some facts about sneezing:

    Sneezes can travel up to 100 miles per hour.
    Particles from your sneeze can reach 30 feet away
    Sneezes give our noses a reboot
    Sunlight causes many people to sneeze
    It is normal to sneeze two or three times in succession
    Your eyes close involuntarily during a sneeze