• Question: why do we sneeze when we smell pepper

    Asked by funnymangohead to Cesar, Emily, Jamie, Kate, Philippa on 22 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: Jamie Gallagher

      Jamie Gallagher answered on 22 Jun 2011:

      Hey funny,

      Glad to have more questions to answer- keep them coming!
      And its a good one too!
      Your nose is very sensitive- there are thousands of little detectors that allow us to smell. Pepper has a chemical compound called piperine in it- it makes up about 5-9% of it and is what gives pepper its smell. When this chemical gets on to the little detectors in the nose it panics them a little! The brain things that these are dangerous chemicals and wants to get rid of them and ACHOO!

      So in a nutshell- sneezing is one way of getting rid of things your body thinks are dangerous to you and pepper seems a little dangerous to your nose.

      And becasue I love crystals you can actually grow crystals of piperine starting off with normal pepper from a shop.

      Another odd sneezing fact is that about 1 in 3 people sneeze when exposed to bright light- thats not dangerous, its just the brain getting a little confused!

      bless you.

    • Photo: Kate Clancy

      Kate Clancy answered on 22 Jun 2011:

      Jamie’s got it! I also know a few people who sneeze if they eat a strong mint. Sneezing is another way for your body to defend against invaders, even if it sometimes overdes it. 🙂