Why people sneeze in the sun – a scientific explanation

Do you sneeze when you leave a dark room and accidentally look at the sun? This happens especially often in winter, when the reflective snow makes the street much brighter than usual. This phenomenon is called the light sneeze reflex and occurs in about 1 in 3 people. This reflex is inherited – if one of the parents sneezes from the sun, with a 50% probability the child will do the same. This reflex in itself is not dangerous, but when driving a car or working in dangerous conditions it can cause an accident. Fortunately, scientists have already studied this phenomenon quite well and can tell why this happens and how sneezing can be avoided. We think everyone should know about this.

Why people sneeze in the sun - a scientific explanation. Not everyone sneezes from bright sunlight; this reflex is inherited. Photo.

Not everyone sneezes from bright sunlight, this reflex is inherited

The sneezing reflex from the sun< /h2>

The light sneeze reflex is also referred to in the scientific literature by the long termautosomal dominant helio-ophthalmic flare (ACHOO) syndrome. It is believed that the first mention of this phenomenon was made in the 4th century BC by the ancient Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle.

According to Live Science, people with this reflex sneeze when there is a sudden change in ambient light. For example, the reflex is triggered when a person leaves the house and looks at the bright sun. It can also be triggered when the lights in the room are suddenly turned on. When it is triggered, the person feels a kind of tickling in the nose area, cannot do anything about it and sneezes. For some people, the light reflex occurs only occasionally, while for others it is always triggered and is accompanied by several sneezes in a row.

Sun sneezing reflex. Sun sneezing has no evolutionary function. Photo.

Sun sneezing has no evolutionary function

In 1995, scientists conducted a study that showed that out of 370 people surveyed, 33% were susceptible to the light reflex. In a more recent 2019 study, Chinese scientists surveyed 3,400 people and found that about 25% had this reflex.

More details:What happens in our bodies when we sneeze is complex and an important process

Why people sneeze from bright light

Why people sneeze from the sun, scientists do not know for sure. But they have several assumptions, each of which is similar to the truth in its own way.

The most plausible version is that bright light stimulates the human trigeminal nerve. This is the name of the cranial nerve, which is responsible for transmitting signals to the brain about touch and pain in the facial area. Branches of the trigeminal nerve run throughout the face, so light can stimulate the branch in the eye area. And this, in turn, can stimulate the branch leading to the nose and cause sneezing.

Why do people sneeze from bright light. The branches of the trigeminal nerve spread throughout the face. Source: startsmile.ru. Photo.

The branches of the trigeminal nerve spread throughout the face. Source: startsmile.ru

In 1995, scientists conducted a study and found that the light sneezing reflex may be associated with a deviated nasal septum. This is the name for a condition in which the septum, which divides the nose into two halves, is shifted to one side or has an irregular shape. People with this diagnosis may have difficulty breathing through their nose and may also have an increased risk of nasal infections and snoring during sleep. But scientists don’t know how a deviated septum can lead to sneezing from the sun.

Interesting fact:Fewer crimes are committed in cities during allergy season

How to stop sneezing

There is nothing wrong with sneezing when you see a bright light. But there is no benefit from it either, because the reflex, apparently, arises due to the close location of the nerves on the face.

A sudden urge to sneeze can only be dangerous if a person is driving or working in hazardous conditions. For example, the reflex may be triggered when a driver emerges from a dark tunnel into a sunny highway – if he is suddenly distracted, a serious accident may occur. Therefore, it is recommended to wear sunglasses while driving during the day. And in general, it is always better to wear them if the sun is shining brightly outside.

How to stop sneezing. On summer days, it is recommended to wear sunglasses to avoid damaging your eyes. Photo.

On summer days, it is recommended to wear sunglasses to avoid damaging your eyes

Another way to stop sneezing is to apply pressure with your finger on the dimple under the nose. It is believed that this pressure relieves irritation of the trigeminal nerve from bright light. This trick can be used in all other cases when you want to sneeze, but you can’t.

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But with all this, it is worth remembering that holding in a sneeze can be deadly. This is a protective action of the body that gets rid of allergens, viruses and bacteria. A loud sneeze usually causes a great deal of relief, but this may not be appropriate in meetings. Therefore, some people try to sneeze silently by closing their mouth and nose. This may be a shocking discovery for some people, but it can cause the trachea or other internal organs to rupture. Be careful!