why does pinching/plugging your nose stop a sneeze?

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When you feel a sneeze coming and you pinch/plug your nose. Why does the sneeze go away?

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If it does, it’s probably psychosomatic–that is, it only works because you think it does. Source: I actually pinch the bridge of my nose to *make* myself sneeze. I assume this is also all in my head, but it works.

If it works for you, it is probably because you confuse the nerves that would trigger a sneeze. Sneeze is a reaction to certain chemicals or tickles in the nose.

this cannot stop a sneeze that already started. It can prevent further sneezes.

A sneeze is triggered by the activation of a certain type of cell in your nose. Those cells have tiny little hairs at the surface and look like a little broom. Their purpose is to detect when a piece of dust or pollen comes into contact with it, and to make you sneeze to eject the potential threat. When you pinch your nose, you block the air flow over the surface of those cells, which makes it harder for it to detect a dust particle suspended in said air. So basically the cell is starting to get activated and by blocking the air flow you make it go “oh wait nevermind it was nothing, abort sneeze”.

Fun fact: Some people are sensitive to light and sneeze when they look into a bright light. This is thought to be because of a crossing over of some nerve pathways between your nose and eyes: your eye detects light, and your brain thinks it’s coming from your nose cells signalling the need for a sneeze. In those cases, pinching your nose hardly ever works as the trigger isn’t coming from the nose cells themselves, but from the eye. On the other hand, people with this quirk are sometimes able to trigger or help a sneeze come along simply by staring into a bright light