Slicing onions make you cry and pepper makes you sneeze — that’s pretty much a given in the kitchen. While slicing onions releases a chemical irritant that makes you well up, why pepper triggers a massive “Bless you!” is a little bit more complicated.
Thanks to a new video from our friends at SciShow, we’ve got a handle on the spice situation. “Pepper is a stimulating substance, but stimulants in the wrong amounts or at the wrong times or in the wrong places can be super irritating,” said Hank Green, host of SciShow. Green goes on to say that pepper activates your pain and acidity receptors and when inhaled in large amounts, it triggers the involuntary act of sneezing.
So keep your nose far, far away from the pepper or simply try to smell a little bit at a time. Happy sniffing!