Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sneezing at the Sun

I happened on an interesting article about sneezing over at the Care2 website today. Although this post may seem like a lazy way to keep the blog updated--which, in fact, it is--in truth, there are one or two things that have puzzled me about sneezing for a long time. Although I understand about sneezing with colds and allegies, there are a couple of things that make me sneeze which puzzle me. One is chocolate--okay, that might be an allergy, but there is no other effect, and given that, I'd prefer to remain in denial if I can. The other, though, is that if I happen to look up towards the sun, I sneeze. It's actually one of my earliest childhood memories.

Thanks to Care2, I now know that there is something called "photic sneezing", or "autosomal dominant compelling helio-ophthamalic outburst". Which, not quite convincingly, is turned into the acronym ACHOO. What it means is that bright light causes you to sneeze. The only bright light that has ever caused me to do this is the sun, as far as I know. One in three people do it and it's hereditary.

At least according to Wikipedia, sneezing is governed by the trigeminal nerve, and it appears that in some people the optic nerve and this one are very connected, so that when the first is overstimulated, the second causes you to sneeze. In fact, there's some evidence that the overstimulation of any nerve near the trigeminal nerve can create this effect--suddenly breathing cold air, or eating very strongly flavored food.

Interestingly, no one in my family ever seemed to know what I was talking about when I mentioned this experience. It would be a shame if, after all these years, this was the way I found out I was adopted.

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