"Photic sneeze reflex"

This thread is in regard to:

I’m not sure on the scientific accuracy of this one, but I was once told (AP Bio class, coincidentally, but not by the teacher) that the nerves that “tell” your eyes you’re looking at bright lights pass close to your sinuses, and that’s what triggers the sneeze.

Anecdotal evidence: Anytime I have a “sneezy feeling” (doncha love the scientific terms?), I can trigger the sneeze by looking at the lights or a white wall, and so avoid looking at them until I’ve found a Kleenex. OTOH, if I have the aforementioned feeling, and the sneeze doesn’t seem to be quite there yet, I can make myself sneeze by looking at a bright white surface.

According to Cecil, this seems to be a genetic tendency. Since any attempts at scientific inquiry have resulted in puzzled looks, is there any more anecdotal evidence from the Teeming Millions?

Anecdotal evidence:

My sister says that she will often feel the urge to sneeze when first walking out into bright sunlight. I myself have never felt that urge.

If you can make something out of that, more power to you. :slight_smile:

Souvenieeeeers, nov-elties, par-ty tricks

More anecdotal evidence: I guess I’m a photic too. (At Photics Anonymous: “Hi, my name is Holger, and I sneeze when I walk out into the sunlight.”)

Pixoid, I think what you learned in bio class pretty much agrees with what Cecil says if you replace “sinuses” with “the nerves responsible for the sinuses”.

I have certainly inherited my photic reflex from my parents. In fact, my mother taught me to look into the light to trigger a sneeze that won’t go off on its own (white walls won’t do, though). Funny thing is, this has always seemed so natural to me - I always assumed this would work for everybody.

Finally, I agree with Cecil’s rebuttal of the second letter he got: My sneezes in the sun come so quickly, they can’t be caused by tears.

Holger, there’s only one person I know with that name, and I work with him.

If it’s you, you’ll know by my screen name.

Jvanhorn, it’s not me. I mean, I am me, but not your me, even though you are you and I am me.

Anyway, Holger is a reasonably common name here in Germany. I know at least three more.

Count me in as a photic sneezer. I sneeze uncontrolably after I come out of a matinee.

I’ve heard that the brigh tlight/sneeze reflex is actually a survival instinct. When humans first developed, they didn’t know to spank the baby to cause crying and help clear the lungs. Instead, when the baby entered the world, it saw a bright light and sneezed which helped to clear the lungs of fluid. Kind of far-fetched I know but now as bad as another thoery on the same subject. The second theory is that it’s a way of protecting the retinas. Since you can’t keep your eyes open when you sneeze, the bright light causes a sneeze, which closes your eyes, which protects your retinas.

Horses have a similar sort of reaction to light, too, called photic head shaking. It’s gotten a lot of press lately, with a lot of controversy about how much is native and how much is learned behavior, but some parts are agreed upon. Some horses, on being exposed to light, will shake their heads violently up and down. No one really knows why, whether it’s always a physical response, whether it’s a learned behavior, or what.

The latest treatment, by the way, is the use of an older anti-histimine called Periactin. I mention the name only because it’s used for a number of different uses, but I’ve never heard of it being used for allergies so it always makes me laugh.

All that’s for what it’s worth.

I also was taught by someone else to look at a bright light to stimulate a sneeze. Works for me, and I didn’t realize it didn’t work for everyone.

I’m a sunlight sneezer. So are my father and his brothers. So is my grandmother. So I’m a firm believer in the idea that it’s genetic.

I also agree that it happens far too quickly to be caused by tears generated by the sunlight.

I’ve tried again and again to avoid the sneezes by shutting my eyes when I walk into the light and then opening them only gradually, hoping they will adjust to the light. But no luck. Generally, I have to open them fully to avoid walking into a lamppost and then the sneezes come, usually in threes.

I fear that when I’m on my death bed, I’ll close my eyes and a comforting voice will whisper: ``Walk into the light, my son. Walk into the light.’’ And as I turn toward the great beyond, AHH-CHOO! AHH-CHOO! AHH-CHOO!

Up, up and away!

Mine normally come in pairs. Guess I’m just the lucky guy - whooo! What about the others?

Somehow, this thread reminds me of discussions with friends in early puberty: “Well, my zits are, like, hard and they’re deep under the skin, and when I squeeze them, they just explode and…”

I sneeze when coming into bright light, too…but just single sneezes.

Looking at lights - or the sky on a bright day - has always worked (sneezogenesis-wise) for me, 'though ah discovered on ma own. But I always assumed it was a defense mechanism against looking at the SUN. (I remember I was TAUGHT not to look, 'though I can’t remember ever having wanted to stare at it before that - but many animals don’t have transmissable culture but DO still need unscarred retinas). My thinking on that was not that sneezing closes the eyes (only temporary), but that it MOVES the head violently, and almost certainly reorients the line of sight.

So why not let’s make a study of it, namely: what is the color distribution of the eyes of people with this trait?

Mine are now grey (wit’ flecks o’ yellow). At birth, aquamarine, if that means anything. I am a twin-sneezer.

On the subject of inheritance, my newborn daughter (brown eyes) is apparently a triosneezer like her father’s maternal grandmother, BUT she hasn’t yet demonstrated that the sneezing is because o’ the lights.

Blue eyes “wit flecks o’ yellow” too.

Up, up and away!

Single sun sneezes, with eyes that double-ringed: green on the outer ring, and brown on the inner.

Insert an “are” after “that”.

Another intriguing possible-correlation occurred to me last night, which I’d like to add to the survey: migraines.

Mine were very serious between ages (approx.) 7 to 13, and were (and still are, though much, MUCH less frequently and less severely) usually induced by bright lights. Any other PSR sufferers wit’ similar conditions?

Double sneezes here, too.

Plain blue eyes, double sneezes, no migraines (in fact, hardly ever any headache, even when hung over :slight_smile: ).

I don’t think this will get us anywhere.

“…in fact, hardly ever any headache, even when hung over…”

Damn you, Holg! You didn’t have to add that last…

“I don’t think this will get us anywhere.”

You are probably right. The sample is too small, and the only apparent correlation is ‘light eyes’ - if hazel eyes count as ‘light.’ But it woulda been neat if PSR was related to migraines - and if that realization led to better research. As fer me, acuPuncture cured my migraines.