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I'm Allergic to the Sun (or Why I Sneeze in the Sun)

Updated on December 9, 2012

The Sun Makes Me Sneeze

Do you ever find that you sneeze when you are exposed to sunlight? I used to think this was a common experience for everyone, and I spent many years of my life oblivious to the fact that most people do not sneeze as a result of being in sunlight. For as long as I can remember, I have experienced this, and one day several years ago, my boyfriend jokingly made fun of me for having a "sun allergy". He was certain I was sneezing because of allergens in the air, since I was obviously not a super tough vampire who found sunlight to be only an annoyance. So, I looked online and I found there is an established scientific term called "photic sneeze reflex" which describes a genetic anamoly of a minority of the human population. To understand photic sneeze reflex, we should also understand what causes a sneeze in the first place.

What Causes Sneezing

Usually, a sneeze is triggered by an irritation in the nose. This irritation is sensed by the trigeminal nerve, which has the function of facilitating facial sensation and motor control. The trigeminal nerve is close to the optic nerve, which connects the eyes to the brain. As the optic nerve tells the brain to constrict the pupils, the signals are also sensed by the trigeminal nerve, which incorrectly senses there is an irritant in the nose. So, if I'm outside on a particularly bright and sunny day, I will sneeze.

Complications with Photic Sneeze Reflex

Photic sneeze reflex could possibly be dangerous for people if they're driving or flying a plane, but I've never experienced long bouts of sneezing from it. Scientists suspect there is a genetic link, but experiments are still being conducted. Meanwhile, we can only speculate. If anyone ever tells you they sneeze in the sun, don't think they're wacky. I can assure you there are definitely more of us who exist.

I don't know what he's talking about, but he has this problem.


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      JaniceWoods 23 months ago

      Myself and my youngest son are "sun sneezers". As soon as I look at the sun I almost automatically sneeze. It can be annoying at times, but I have been doing that for more than forty years now.

    • alexfantastico profile image

      alexfantastico 6 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Yeah. When you grow up with it you just take it for granted huh? My theory is that in ancient times our ancestors were having staring competitions with the sun. Our ancestors lost because they had the photic sneeze reflex. But the people who "won" went blind and died of starvation. Therefore the photic sneeze reflex gene saturated the population.

    • jwood00 profile image

      jwood00 6 years ago from the other side of morning

      Really? That's funny, because I don't know many people who even know what this is. I have a feeling most people think I'm irrationally linking the sun to my sneezing.

    • alexfantastico profile image

      alexfantastico 6 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Yes... I can sympathise, I and most of my family are sufferers of this.