Saturday, January 31, 2009

Photic Sneeze Reflex

Does sunlight make you sneeze? If so you are in the ~20% of the population carrying this dominant genetic trait. The biomechanics aren't totally clear, but scientists hypothesize that overstimulation of the optic nerve somehow triggers the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for the sneeze reflex.

I inherited my photic sneeze reflex from my father. He started his career as a navigator in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Nowadays it would preclude any career as a fighter pilot, but I'm not sure whether he and his flying buddies were tested back then.

When I first met David he didn't believe my claims about the sun making me sneeze, and he finally looked it up on the internet. That's how I learned that it's a known and documented phenomenon. Normally I hardly notice it, but over the past few days I have been suffering from a sinus infection and looking into the sunlight (we've actually had some) is painful rather than pleasurable. In addition all the bones in face are tender and my teeth ache like crazy -- no riding for me. I'm lucky to enjoy excellent health overall, but today I'm off to the doctor.


Grey Horse Matters said...

I'm glad to hear this is actually a fact. I sneeze with the sun too. Get bad sinus headaches and have your symptoms, hope you feel better soon. Unfortunately, I know how you feel.

allhorsestuff said...

Oh sorry to hear this!
Hope you can get some relief from the Doc.
My father always looked up at the sun an would sneeze instantly so.He may have had the PSR. I tickle my nose with paper and do the same, but so far, am only alergic to molds and peppermint Altoids.
My husband is very alergic to spring, summer and fall. He takes Freeze dried Nettles from a Co. called "Oregon's Wild Harvest". They open the sinus cavity with out apparent negative side affects to him(us) I take them in spring fall when mold are present with weather changes.
I am glad you know what it to find relief..hope it does not mean staying inside.

Funder said...

Ugh, sinus infections SUCK. Hate 'em.

I seem to remember that bright sunlight makes me sneeze, but it's been a while. I wear sunglasses almost 100% of the time when the sun is up - bright reflections will occasionally trigger migraines, and wearing sunglasses completely prevents that.

dp said...

I wear glasses all the time, and last year I got the ones that darken in the sunlight. They have vastly improved my sneezing, but they don't work in the car so I still sneeze a lot when I'm driving directly into the sun.

Doctor gave me some antibiotics and some spray and I'm already feeling a bit better. I HATE taking drugs as I would rather my body fend things off for itself, but it was definitely losing this time around.

Stacey said...

I knew that it was real, but I thought that it was a retained reflex from intfanthood. Almost all babies sneeze as a reflex to any sudden bright light, supposedly to keep their developing eyes safe.