​You know that feeling. The uncontrollable itch under the bridge of your nose. It intensifies and tickles your sinuses in a very uncomfortable manner. Your face contorts into a Picasso portrait.

Then it happens. The itch expels itself in a loud and wet blast. For a moment, you look a little sheepish and silly. But you feel relieved. Free from the tyranny of the itch. Life is great again.

Wait. Do your worries really end when you go ahh-CHOO? Not exactly, according to many myths and beliefs from around the world. Read on to find out about the fascinating meanings we have tacked onto the common sneeze.

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before – every time you go ahh-chooo, someone somewhere is thinking of you. (Celebrities and world leaders must sneeze an awful lot.) No one really knows where this myth originated from, but the Japanese have taken it one step further. They believe that sneezing once means someone is gossiping something nice about you. Twice means something not as nice. Thrice – gossip that’s really, really not nice at all.

Most of us would merely coo and ahh when an infant sneezes, but it turns out even that has much deeper implications in other parts of the world.

British nurses believe that babies were under a fairy spell until they sneezed. Nowadays, when kids lose that angelic charm and innocence, we refer to it as “growing up”.

Likewise, the Polynesian people treat a child’s sneeze with similarly mystical significance. A young Maori child’s sneeze could signal the prospects of a visit or a piece of interesting news. In Tonga, the sneeze of a child means bad fortune for the family.

Can your eyeballs pop out of their sockets if you sneeze with your eyes open? Don’t worry, you’ll be okay. Our eyeballs are very securely tucked inside their sockets, so you will not end up with a freaky, perpetually surprised-looking face.

Saying “bless you” after someone sneezes is a common act of courtesy. However, this gesture has much darker origins. Some 1,500 years ago, it was believed that the soul leaves its body temporarily during a sneeze, leaving behind a temptingly vacant shell for the devil to swoop in and occupy. So, a “bless you” served to safeguard the sneezer’s soul.

Alternate theories suggest that the practice of blessing a sneeze arose out of the terrible Black Death pandemic. The highly contagious plague would cause its victim to cough and sneeze uncontrollably. The pope then stepped in and decreed that blessing a sneezer would protect oneself from the deadly plague that was terrorising 13th century Europe.

It’s obvious by now that the ever-present Ah…Chew is loaded with myths folklore and colourful meanings. And, as entertaining as they may be, the best thing about a flu is avoiding one.

That’s why we’ve put together these tried-and-tested ways to prevent contagious diseases like the flu. Don’t give into the flu, follow these tips and F.I.G.H.T back.

Just like your mother always said, you should wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water to keep them free of nasty viruses and bacteria. You should always clean your hands:
  • Before and after meals
  • Before handling food
  • After using the toilet
  • After blowing your nose
Travel tip: Use a hand sanitiser if washing facilities are not readily available.

A little prick can save you a lot of pain. Getting vaccinated is reliable and easy – just ask your doctor at polyclinics or private clinic. The flu vaccination is strongly recommended for:
  • The elderly and their caregivers
  • Very young children, aged 6 months to 5 years
  • People with low immunity (e.g. on cancer treatment) or chronic diseases such as diabetes
  • Travellers
Travel tip: Vaccinate two weeks before leaving the country.

Don’t try to be a toughie, suffering through a flu makes it worse for everyone. As soon you start experiencing flu-like symptoms, seek treatment. Remember to wear a face mask to the clinic so you don’t make the other sick folks there even sicker. 

If you’re feeling unwell, avoid crowded places like school, work, and shopping malls to prevent spreading the virus to others. When home, keep a distance from your loved ones to protect them from your flu. The upside to this is you’ll have the TV remote all to yourself.

It’s no coincidence that most superheroes wear a mask. Putting on a mask or using a tissue to cover your mouth and nose prevents the virus from infecting those around you. Dispose of your used tissues into a covered dustbin and wash your hands after doing so. 

Remember: when it comes to flu, sharing isn’t caring.

Travel tip: Bring face masks on your overseas trips, you’ll never know if there is a nasty virus lurking around.

​Wait, where’s the sex?

If you’re reading this only because you saw “sex” in the headline, thank you for making it this far. Here’s what you’re looking for:

Some people experience the excitement of an unlikely organ – the nose, during sexual arousal. This odd reflex causes sneezing, which seems highly inconvenient for the situation. If you’re still curious (which you probably are), search for “sexually induced sneezing”.