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Why does cleaning your ear with a cotton swab make you sneeze?

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Why does cleaning your ear with a cotton swab make you sneeze?

The Arnold Reflex: Why Some People Cough When Using Cotton Swabs

The uncontrollable urge to cough or sneeze when inserting a cotton swab into the ear has puzzled many people for years. However, the phenomenon, known as the Arnold reflex, has a scientific explanation.

The Arnold reflex, discovered by German doctor Friedrich Arnold in the 19th century, is a response to stimulating the external ear. This stimulation can activate the vagus nerve, which connects the ear to the throat and abdomen. The body’s reaction to cough or sneeze when using a cotton swab is a natural response to expel what it perceives as foreign objects, in this case, the cotton swab.

Interestingly, there is a historical connection to this phenomenon. It is said that at ancient banquets, some people induced vomiting by tickling their ear with a feather, in an attempt to expel excessive quantities of food by coughing. While this may be considered a legend by many historians, it sheds light on how the Arnold reflex has been observed throughout history.

This discovery sheds light on the body’s natural defense mechanisms and provides insight into why some individuals experience this reflex when using cotton swabs. Understanding the Arnold reflex can help individuals use cotton swabs more cautiously and reduce the risk of discomfort or irritation in the ear.

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