Sun-induced sneezing

As a seasonal allergy sufferer, I sneeze quite a bit this time of year.

And I’d argue one of the most annoying feelings – next to having one side of your nose stuffed up – is having that tickling feeling in your nose and not being able to sneeze.

When that happens, I often seek out a bright light bulb or the sun. Staring at the light usually brings relief in the form of a sneeze.

My mom taught me that trick, and I always assumed it worked for everyone. That is until I told my boyfriend to try it, and he looked at me like I was crazy.

Today, I came across this MSNBC article that explained so much.

According to Dr. Roberta Pagon, a pediatrician in the division of genetic medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital, the tendency to sneeze at sunlight is known as the “photic sneeze reflex.”

And it’s hereditary.

While it doesn’t work for everyone, it’s not all that uncommon. According to one estimate, 18 to 35 percent of people get a tickling sensation in their nose when they look at intense sunlight.

And for some, bright artificial light can also do the trick.

According to Dr. Nicolas Langer, a neuropsychology researcher the University of Zurich who has studied the photic sneeze reflex, has two theories as to why this occurs in some people.

According to the article, one theory is the visual system in the brain is more sensitive in photic sneezers. When it gets overstimulated by light, it triggers a sneeze.

The second possibility, according to the article, is the two nerves (optic and trigeminal) are too close together in photic sneezers. Light may cause stimulation of the optic nerve (in the eye), which then activates the trigeminal nerve (in the face) and causes a sneeze.

What about you? Are you a photic sneeze reflex-er?

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