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Spiritual Meaning of Sneezing and Coughing

What does sneezing mean spiritually?

Sneezing, also known as sternutation, is the act of expelling a sudden and uncontrollable burst of air through the mouth and nose.

Sneezing is actually the nose’s way of getting rid of foreign substances, such as – mucus, dust, and allergens.

It is accomplished by biochemical signals which regulate the beating of cilia (hair-like structures) on the cells which line your nasal cavities.

Sternutation cannot occur during sleep due to REM (Rapid Eye Movement) atonia – a phenomenon in which the brain shuts off stimulation to the large muscle groups during REM.


It can be due to:

  • triggers like – air pollution, dust, spicy foods, dry air, certain medicines, strong emotions, or powders;
  • allergy to pollen, dander, mold, dust (hay fever);
  • drug withdrawal (a group of symptoms that occur upon the abrupt discontinuation or decrease in the intake of recreational drugs or medications);
  • breathing in corticosteroids (anti-inflammatory medicines);
  • pregnancy rhinitis – congestion or a stuffy nose during pregnancy. It  affects about 40% of women at some point during their pregnancy;
  • gustatory rhinitis – it is a condition that causes an individual to sneeze after eating hot or spicy foods, like – hot soups, wasabi, curry, or hot peppers;
  • photic sneeze reflex – a reaction to exposure to bright light;
  • the flu or common cold – sternutation is a symptom of the common cold and can help spread the infection.


Depending upon the reason for the sternutation, other symptoms and signs can also occur, such as:

  • chills;
  • fever;
  • a cough;
  • a sore throat;
  • a runny nose or nasal congestion;
  • itchy, burning, or watery eyes.


A cough is a reflex action that clears the throat of foreign irritants or mucus. It can occur with other symptoms, that may include:

  • a sour taste in your mouth;
  • a stuffy nose;
  • shortness of breath;
  • a runny nose;
  • wheezing ;
  • hoarseness;
  • postnasal drip.

Spiritual Meaning of Sneezing and Coughing + MythsSpiritual Meaning of Sneezing and Coughing

Many people once believed that the soul lies inside the head and, therefore, considered sneezing as an ominous sign of it, while others considered it auspicious.

An old Flemish belief asserts that a sneeze during the conversation proves the truth of a remark. Such superstition was also encountered in Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures.

Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans considered sneezing a kind of internal oracle that warned them in times of distress and predicted positive or negative events. Sneezing to the right was considered lucky, while the one to the left brought bad luck.

According to an old legend, before the patriarchs of the Old Testament, people sneezed once and then died. Patriarch Jacob intervened in favor of the earthlings and obtained an annulment of this law, provided that each sneeze was followed by “God bless you!”

The Romans believed that sneezing would remove the demons from people, so the act of sneezing was considered an effort made by that person to get rid of the evil spirits. Therefore, people around would say “Good Luck!”

In 17th century England, it was customary for all who heard someone sneeze to take out their hat, lean, and shout “God bless you!”

Many people think the habit of saying “God bless!” after a sneeze dates back to the time of the Great Plague epidemic that affected London in 1665.

Other traditions claim that practice began much earlier, under the pontificate of Gregory the Great (540-604) – the pope between 590-604.

During this period, a devastating plague haunted Italy, proving to be fatal to those who had sneezed.

The Pope personally wrote prayers, indicating that they should be uttered against the plague and be accompanied by the sign of the cross.

According to some scholars, this is when the habit of telling someone who sneezed “God bless!” was first introduced.

In Iceland, according to the legend, there was once a terrible plague that has taken many lives. A brother and a sister have noticed that everyone around them who got sick was experiencing a lot of sneezing before the onset of the disease.

Therefore, when they began to sneeze, they immediately said: “God bless!” Thanks to this prayer, the brother and sister survived and spread the story of the healing blessing to all the inhabitants of the region. The Icelanders continued the tradition of saying, “God bless!” whenever they sneezed, or someone around them.

Home Remedies For Sneezing

#1 Fennel Tea

It has natural anti-viral and antibiotic attributes that can fight off any upper respiratory infection, including sternutation.

This tea is also an effective way to improve digestion and relieve muscle spasms.

#2 Gingerginger

The health benefits of ginger are largely due to its content of medicinal compounds such as – shogaol, gingerol, zingerone, and paradol as well as due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Consume 1 teaspoon of ginger extract two times per day until the sternutation stops.

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#3 Fenugreek SeedsFenugreek Seeds

Fenugreek is an herb in the same family as soy. These seeds smell and taste similar to maple syrup.

Due to their potent antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antihistaminic qualities, these remarkable seeds will save you from irritated throat and nose caused by sternutation.

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#4 Peppermint Essential OilPeppermint oil

This essential oil contains numerous nutrients and minerals including iron, omega-3 fatty acids (polyunsaturated fatty acids that are important for your body and brain), manganese, calcium, folate, magnesium, copper, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A.

Peppermint essential oil has excellent antibacterial attributes that help decongest the airways and stop the growth of viruses that are causing sternutation.

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#5 Lemongrass TeaLemongrass

The vitamin C packed in lemongrass tea provides fast relief from blockages of the respiratory system.

In addition, this tea is used as a folk remedy to relieve pain, promote sleep, and enhance immunity.

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#6 Chamomile TeaChamomile tea

It is a mild sedative and a natural antihistamine. It is recommended to drink this tea before bed.

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#7 Oregano OilOregano

Oregano oil is a powerful natural remedy that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments.

It has strong anti-fungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-parasitic properties, which fight off the pathogenic bacteria and viruses that may cause sternutation.

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#8 Nutritionfruits

Citrus fruits such as – lemons, oranges, limes, grapefruits, clementines, or pomelos, contain flavonoids – potent antioxidants that boost the immune system of the human body.


Common prevention methods for sternutation include:

  • vacuum and dust frequently;
  • wash linens in very hot water to kill dust mites;
  • avoid exposure to whatever is causing you an allergic reaction;
  • travel to areas with low pollen counts;
  • avoid foods that you are allergic to;
  • avoid foods known to cause sternutation;
  • water cleanses the body and flushes out the toxins, therefore, it is recommended to drink plenty of liquids, especially water;
  • do not have pets in the house if you are allergic to animal dander;
  • change your furnace filters as often as possible.

Images credit – Shutterstock

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Roger D Hamilton

Monday 16th of December 2019

Today I happened to mention to an acquaintance the involuntary act of sneezing in anticipation of some kind of "highly charged experience" ( for want of a better term ); one, in fact, that has occurred to me often personally; referring to it as "emotional sneezing" that he, in fact, said he had never heard of. As of my friend I am extremely surprised it has not been referred to here. I would have thought it commonplace enough to have been included as a certainty.