It starts with a little tickle, a subtle itchiness hiding just below the surface. You can feel it slowly building up. Your body goes rigid as the sensation grows. You’re going to explode. And then… sweet release as it rushes out, flooding you with the pleasure of complete relaxation.

Then you grab a tissue, blow your nose and carry on. Welcome to flu season and all its accompanying hacks, coughs and sneezes. It drives a lot of us crazy. But for some, all that snot and phlegm comes with a certain sexual energy. Mucophilia is an attraction to all things sneezing and snot-related. There are no hard numbers on how many people go crazy for colds, but if the 6,054 members of Sneeze Fetish Forum prove anything, it’s probably a lot more than we expect. The kink crosses fetish genres as well. The 300-member-strong website SneezeFurs caters specifically to furry fetishists who have this kink. The online community is filled with conversations, artwork and videos, all about sneezing in various animal forms.

The attraction to the common cold is thanks mostly to helplessness and sneezing expressions akin to orgasming.

“The best explanation I can give is in the loss of control,” says Andre, a 34-year-old from Michigan who discovered his arousal from sneezes when a high school classmate had an allergic fit. “You can’t help sneezing, it happens to the best of us. It’s enticing to see someone try to quell the urge to sneeze by sniffling or rubbing their nose, but to no avail. It’s going to happen whether they want it to or not. The entire process of a sneeze, from the first itch or burning to the sharp intake of air through the lungs and the loud outburst and visual mist of saliva and mucus being expelled will always do it for me.”

The owner of SneezeFurs, who goes by Furry-Sneezes, agrees. They first noticed an attraction to sneezing very early in life, listening to an audiotape of Dumbo and replaying over and over again the part where the elephant sneezes. As FS matured, they began to place importance in the identity of the sneezer and started to incorporate sexual elements like nudity.

“For me, those parallels are probably my favorite part to the fetish these days,” FS says. “The ideal flow of a sneeze is a slow build that results in an explosive peak, and the more similar the expressions are to an orgasm while still retaining a degree of innocence and lack of control, the more it tends to resonate with me.”

Now, FS combines their love of sneezing with a fox-based furry fetish—they enjoy seeing all the extra expression and body language the animal shows through ears, mouth and tail during a sneezing fit.

Nineteen-year-old U.S.-based Stella runs a YouTube channel specifically catering to the mucophilia fetish. She first discovered sneezing aroused her when she was 13 and soon discovered sneezing videos.

“I started reading comments in the wee hours of the morning and realized that people were getting turned on by these videos and even getting off to them,” Stella said. “I thought that was so strange until I realized that my panties were soaking wet, and I was clearly being aroused as well.”

It opened a floodgate of realization for her, and she began to understand why she had always been shy about sneezing in front of others (though now it excites her). It also explained her penchant growing up to play make-believe about being sick and sneezing.

Once she found the videos, she was obsessed. That obsession has now blossomed into more than just watching or making them—at this point she’s turned on by herself or others sneezing, fake sneezes, being sneezed on and even just hearing someone say “bless you.” She started her channel in 2016 and already has more than 850 subscribers.

“There’s a pretty decently sized group of people who record and compile videos of sneezing on YouTube,” Stella says. “I had been watching these videos for years and wanted to give back to the community. At this point, it’s clear to me that the process of making myself sneeze, recording it and watching it back before I post it makes me incredibly turned on as well. It seems to be a mutually beneficial arrangement.”

For her videos, Stella induces sneezing using various household items: bobby pins, paper clips, feathers and the ends of burnt incense sticks. She sticks them up her nose and wiggles them around until she finds a ticklish spot, then waits for the bliss to happen. Others—presumably in an effort to not push things up a nostril—sniff stuff with really strong smells, like flowers, perfume or pepper.

Stella is lucky though. Her partner has extreme allergies year-round, so she often doesn’t have to bother with inducing sneezes outside of her YouTube channel. They enjoy the fetish together, sneezing onto—and into—one another, incorporating bondage for helpless sneezes and using snot as lube. Though Stella’s partner originally didn’t have any attraction to sneezing, she does now because of how excited it makes Stella.

“I bless her every time because I appreciate every sneeze, and it turns me on more to give special acknowledgement to each one,” Stella said. “I let her make me sneeze, and she blesses me as well.”

Andre’s fantasies include much of the same. He doesn’t currently have a partner to share the fetish with, but if he did, he dreams of role play incorporating pretend or actual allergies, using long feathers to tickle his partner’s nose and restraint to make it all the more helpless.

“My main fantasy is caring for someone who is suffering from hay fever or a cold,” Andre said. “Just the look on the person’s face of misery, a red, congested nose and a congested register to their voice. I’d do my best to comfort that person as much as possible and help catch their sneezes in a tissue and help them with blowing their nose.”

But both Stella and Andre are quick to point out that getting themselves sick for the cause is not something they want to do. Andre simply doesn’t like his own sneezes and prefers to listen to recordings if he’s in the mood. For Stella though, she indulges in the joys of accidentally catching something.

“I don’t intentionally get sick because I would have to deal with all of the other symptoms that I wouldn’t enjoy, but I definitely find pleasure in getting colds,” she said.