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Myth or Fact: Your Heart Stops Beating When You Sneeze

Posted Date: 6/12/2014
A sneeze is an involuntary nasal response caused by irritation to the mucous membranes. There are many cultural beliefs about sneezing, including the notion that the heart stops beating momentarily during a sneeze, essentially "killing" you for an instant, which is why it’s common for someone to "bless you" after a sneeze. The truth, though, is a little different.

"Pressure in your chest increases when you inhale before a sneeze," says Dr. Chaim Gitelis, a cardiologist at Maimonides Medical Center. "The pressure then drops when you exhale during the sneeze." The difference in pressure could have a very minimal effect on your heart rhythm, heart rate or blood pressure, but, in most people, this will go unnoticed.

"When there is a long period of time between one beat and the next, a person may feel like their heart has stopped beating," says Dr. Gitelis. By studying electrocardiograms, though, doctors have confirmed that the heart does not stop beating during a sneeze.

Verdict: False.

Dr. Chaim Gitelis

Dr. Chaim Gitelis is a cardiologist at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY. He attended medical school at New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. He then completed residency and fellowship at Maimonides Medical Center. Dr. Gitelis is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular disease, echocardiography and nuclear cardiology.
To make an appointment, call (718) 645-1199.
For more information, click here.

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