Women who suspect a man of having sex on the brain should listen out for a sneeze, as a pair of British doctors say that sneezing may be a sign of arousal.
In an unusual paper published on Friday in the prestigious Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Mahmood Bhutta and Harold Maxwell cite the case of an unnamed middle-aged patient who suffered uncontrollable fits of sneezing whenever he thought of sex.
Intrigued, the pair unearthed further evidence — although less robust — among anonymous Internet chat rooms, where 17 people of both sexes reported sneezing immediately upon thinking of sex and three others who said they sneezed after orgasm.
Bhutta, a specialist in ear, nose and throat medicine at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, said the phenomenon could be more widespread than thought and might even be inherited.
“It certainly seems odd, but I think this reflex demonstrates evolutionary relics in the wiring of a part of the nervous system called the autonomic nervous system,” Bhutta said.
“This is the part beyond our control, and which controls things like our heart rate and the amount of light let in by our pupils. Sometimes the signals in this system get crossed, and I think this may be why some people sneeze when they think about sex.”
Bhutta said there were only one or two references to the sex-and-sneezing link in published medical literature.
The most recent was a letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1972 involving a 69-year-old men who complained of severe sneezing following orgasm.
But embarrassment or social inhibition may have prevented the topic from being aired, suggests Bhutta, who says further research could shed light.