Sneeze Girl

From Time magazine, Dec 14, 1936:

Because she had been sneezing every few minutes since Oct. 9, Mary Margaret Cleer, 13, daughter of a Fort Myer, Va. gasoline station attendant, last week held the attention of a great many curious laymen and puzzled doctors. No one knew what caused the prolonged sneezing fit which had racked the child to skin & bones and put a constant, haggard sneer on her face.

To see if allergy to some substance caused the sneezing, Washington doctors scratched her skin some 80 times, rubbed into the scratches hay pollen, flower pollen, pulverized cat fur, dog hair, house dust, food extracts, dozens of substances.

Skin tests failed to reveal any specific allergy. A Washington doctor cut out the adolescent's tonsils, with no effect on the sneezing. Other specialists could find nothing unusual in her lungs or nervous system.

Lay cures for sneezing which Mary Cleer was urged to try included wearing a "magnetic" letter pinned to her night dress, looking down the bridge of her nose at pieces of bright silk held close to the tip, clipping an electrified wire to her nose and toes, getting tattooed, taking snuff.

Last week when Mary Cleer went to Johns Hopkins Hospital, the great medical faculty there had never before treated or even seen a girl who sneezed so persistently. Johns Hopkins specialists began a new series of tests. A psychiatrist examined the girl and summoned her parents to analyze their mental and emotional makeups. Mary underwent fluoroscopy, blood testing, other examinations. A gynecologist also took her in charge, for the nasal and genital tissues are histologically related. The mucous membranes of the nose swell during sexual excitement. This well-known phenomenon gives rise to a theory that the noses of many little girls become sensitive as they turn into young womanhood, and that this makes such girls sniff, lisp or pamper their noses in an apparently affected manner, and that this overture to womanhood causes an occasional girl to sneeze uncontrollably. That, a gynecologist might guess, was the trouble with Mary Cleer, 13.

Apparently the sneezing eventually stopped of its own accord. No one ever figured out what the cause was.

Decatur Daily Review - Dec 3, 1936



(left) Alexandria Town Talk - Oct 27, 1936
(right) Daily Clintonian - Dec 8, 1936

     Posted By: Alex - Thu May 17, 2018
     Category: Health | Medicine | 1930s





Comments
Good to know that the young lady's malady eventually cleared up. Funny how many of the specialists tried to weave sexual response into their diagnoses. They sound like closet Freudians.
Posted by KDP in Madill, OK on 05/18/18 at 09:48 PM
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