If you’re out somewhere getting groceries for example, don’t sneeze. If you do, you might be taking your life into your hands. That happened to me last month when I sneezed in the parking lot at Safeway (into my arm), and then heard myself explaining to the stranger eyeing me like she wanted to strangle me, “Hey don’t worry, I’m not sick! I have snatiation!”

She rolled her eyes. I realized she had no idea what I was talking about and probably thought I was being sarcastic to her.

I just learned about snatiation a few years ago, but I’ve had it all my life. When my kids were teens, they would tease me and count out loud how many times I sneezed uncontrollably during a fit. I think my record was 22 in a row.

Ah-choo! Over and over. If in public, I’d feel a sneeze coming on and race to the bathroom to sneeze in private, in a tissue of course. And wash my hands. For years, I didn’t know what to call this problem. I thought I was allergic to something in my food. Then one day I read an article about a genetic polymorphism that described a condition called “snatiation.” It’s a play on the words “satiation” and “sneeze.” Holy moly, it described me to a T.

Snatiation is totally controllable, at least for me. If I don’t stuff myself, I hardly ever sneeze. Do you have snatiation too?

Perhaps in years past for me as a young girl, snatiation was just a funny quirk I had to deal with! But today, if that were to happen to me (in public), I’d probably get shot.

Sneezing is triggered by many situations including epileptic disorders, a response to bright lights, spicy foods or dust and pollen. It often goes hand in hand with a runny nose. Aside from a cough, sneezing is the most apparent symptom of a cold, flu and as of late, COVID-19.

Facts About Sneezing

1. Most people need to close their eyes when sneezing.

2. Sneezes travel far, much farther than we thought, around 90 miles per hour.

3. The sound of your sneeze is based upon your anatomy.

4. Once a sneeze starts, it’s impossible to stop.

5. The medical term for sneezing is sternutation.

7. The phrase “God bless you” has something to do with bubonic plague.

Let’s vow to sneeze politely from now on, especially because of the circumstances with the coronavirus. If you are mindful and polite, you could literally spare someone from catching a life-threatening disease.

So sneeze into the crook of your elbow, or down into your scarf or shirt, or into a tissue. Wear your masks. Don’t blow your germs all over the place, it’s not only dangerous, it’s rude. If infectious (and please be mindful that you might be asymptomatic), your sneeze could be expelling a virus or bacteria up to 25 or 30 feet away from you. The mucus and saliva that you spew could hurt someone these days in a very serious way.

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist and the author of ‘The 24-Hour Pharmacist’ and ‘Real Solutions.’ For more information, visit www.suzycohen.com. This information is not intended to prevent, treat, diagnose or cure your condition. Always check with your doctor before following any medical advice.