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Why Do Some People Sneeze When They Look at the Sun?

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Mayo Clinic experts give us the scientific explanation behind some strange reactions in the body. We asked Dr.  Amy Rantala, specialist in  Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at the Mayo Clinic.(1)

Why do some people sneeze when they look at the sun?

This is known as the “photic sneeze” reflex or “solar sneeze.” It is an involuntary response that some people experience when looking directly into bright light, such as the sun. Approximately 18 to 35% of the world’s population has this peculiarity. 

The exact cause of photic sneezing is not yet fully understood, but it is believed to be related to an interaction between the optic nerves and the nerves of the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary functions of the body.

sunglass

Experts View.

The theoretical explanation behind this reaction is as follows: the optic nerve, which detects a change in light, is located near the trigeminal nerve, which controls sneezing. A typical sneeze is caused by irritation in the nose, which activates the trigeminal nerve and triggers a sneeze. When leaving a dark room into a brightly lit place, the pupils constrict.

This rapid reflex begins in the optic nerve and can give the sensation of irritation in the nose, which causes sneezing. Not all people have this reaction, and it is not clear why some people do and others do not.

Importance of It.

It is important to note that although photic sneezing is generally benign, looking directly at the sun can be harmful to the eyes. Therefore, it is always advisable to avoid looking directly at the sun and take measures to protect your eyes from strong sunlight by wearing appropriate sunglasses.

Mayo Clinic  is a nonprofit organization dedicated to innovating clinical practice, education and research, and providing expertise, compassion and answers to all who need to regain health. You can enter the  Mayo Clinic Information Network  to read more news.

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  1. Don’t let an injury slow you down.; https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/services-and-treatments/sports-medicine

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