Why does peppermint make me sneeze?

Strong doses of peppermint, that is.

Peppermint chewing gum has no effect on me, and peppermint breath mints have no effect on me if I suck on them, but if I chew a mint, I sneeze forcibly a few seconds later.

I’m eating a roll of peppermint BreathSavers right now and sneezing to amuse my coworkers and prove to them that as soon as I crunch one, a sneeze follows. So what gives? A quick google search found no explanation, but a few mentions of this happening to other people.

(Cecil’s column on the photic sneeze reflex didn’t shed much light on it (heh heh) but I sneeze as a result of bright lights, too.)

This happens to me too, but it does extend to strong enough gum too.

In fact, just reading the OP is tickling my nose a little.

I wonder if ACHOO (autosomnal dominant compelling helioophthalmic outburst) syndrome treatments are covered by your insurance, lno…

As for your mint crunching, my collegue at MadSci (who answers medical science questions) believes it’s likely caused by the vapor-like goodness that is released when you crunch a solid minty candy. Little particles are released when you crunch away, and, all things being connected, they tickle your nasal passages… sometimes enough to make you sneeze. He suspects you’d get a very similar reaction from strong menthol throat drops, if you were to crunch those…

Sneeze awaaaaay!


Note: Apparently, sneezing occasionally fascinates the medical community. There’s a list of photic sneezing references from medical publications here http://loin.free.fr/john/medical_articles.html