Why do you say Bless you when people sneeze?
Is there good reason or history?
When someone sneeze, if I don’t say Bless you, am I rude?
The following excerpt from howstuffworks.com gives some insight:
The phrase “God bless you” is
attributed to Pope Gregory the Great,
who uttered it in the sixth century
during a bubonic plague epidemic
(sneezing is an obvious symptom of one
form of the plague).
The exchangeable term “gesundheit”
comes from Germany, and it literally
means “health.” The idea is that a
sneeze typically precedes illness. It
entered the English language in the
early part of the 20th century,
brought to the United States by
For the most part, the various sneeze
responses originated from ancient
superstitions. Some people believed
that a sneeze causes the soul to
escape the body through the nose.
Saying “bless you” would stop the
devil from claiming the person’s freed
soul. Others believed the opposite:
that evil spirits use the sneeze as an
opportunity to enter a person’s body.
There was also the misconception that
the heart momentarily stops during a
sneeze (it doesn’t), and that saying
“bless you” was a way of welcoming the
person back to life.
We now know that sneezing is a reflex
action and is most often the sign of
something relatively benign, such as a
cold or allergy. A sneeze also can be
provoked by being outside in the
sunlight or from smelling a strong
odor. Still, we persist in the custom
of saying “bless you” or “gesundheit,”
mainly out of habit and common
As to the second part of your question; according to me, it depends on the context. If someone I’m talking to sneezes at that moment, I say it.