Does ‘Achoo’ Always Call For A Blessing?

“Always say ‘Bless You’ when you hear somebody sneeze.”

That’s one of the “good living rules” suggested in a recent e-mail.

It’s a congenial sentiment many express, as a well wishing when we’re forced to “achoo.”

However, when one is in an office and has hay fever with uncontrollable sneezing throughout the day, the what-is-meant-to-be-gracious remark gets so it makes us cringe.

We don’t want to sneeze, we can’t control it, and we don’t want others to hear us. The expression almost seems to become snide when in reality it’s meant as a courtesy.

Finally, we just quickly respond to our own sneeze: “We’ve already been blessed enough today, thank you.” After awhile, they ignore us, but we can tell the continuous “achoos” is annoying.

Origin of the custom of blessing someone (“God bless you”) who sneezes may have been started by Pope Gregory I in AD 590 in an effort to halt the bubonic plague disease.

Legend is that the heart stops beating when one sneezes and the “bless you” ensures that the heart starts beating again.

People used to believe that sneezing was the body’s effort to force out an invading evil spirit.

Superstitions include “Rubbing the bridge of the nose can prevent sneezing;” “Sneeze before seven, company before eleven;” and “Always say ‘God bless you’ when  sneezing, to keep the devil from flying down the throat.”

Sneezing is a phenomenon that is common to all humans and is widespread in animals too, but it is surprising how little is known about such a common reflex.

Doctors claim sneezing  may play an important role in maintaining health in ways that we don’t currently understand. However, they contend it is rarely a sign of serious illness.

On the other hand, sneezing can be remarkably annoying as we well know. Perhaps the most important thing is to cover the mouth and nose, so whatever one has isn’t spread to others.

Not that we don’t need the blessings, but hopefully we don’t have to continue sneezing to get them.

Of course, we can’t forget Second Kings 4:35: “And the child sneezed seven times, and then opened his eyes.”

Yet, we’re reminded of Psalm 72:15: “Offer prayers unceasing so all people may enter His circle of blessing and bless the One who blessed them.”