Sneezing as a public good problem

A friend just posed the question: Do we sneeze because our body wants to, or because viruses are making us sneeze to spread themselves?

A brief search suggested that the body likes sneezing as a way of getting rid of nasal irritants. And obviously, viruses like sneezing to spread themselves. So it seems like it is in both of their interests.

The problem, of course, is that the cost of sneezing is born by others - it's a classic tragedy of the commons. So if we could somehow all agree to modify our genome to reduce sneezing, we might all win by getting sick less. And we could still clear nasal irritation through controlled nose-blowing in ways that won't expose others.

The most obvious group to do this is all the employees who work in a given location, since that is where much exposure happens. But until such genetic engineering is possible, this is all mere speculation - snot-blowing, if you will.

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