ACHOO – Sun Sneeze

ACHOO!

Everyone sneezes but some of us sneeze for vastly different reasons than others. It’s maybe due to a tingle in your nose, certain smells, allergies or… sunlight?

Yes, ACHOO, or autosomal dominant compelling helio-ophthalmic outburst, is really a thing.  ACHOO is caused by sudden exposure to bright lights, and is also known as sun sneeze or photic sneeze reflex.

What is ACHOO syndrome?

People with ACHOO sneeze when their eyes are exposed to sunlight or other bright lights. Surprisingly this syndrome affects between 15–30% of people around the world but, thankfully, poses no serious threat to their health.

Usually triggered by abrupt bright light, (such as coming into sunlight from a darkened space, a camera’s flash, or even the light used by eye doctors) these sneezes come on quickly and are uncontrollable. Luckily, most people don’t sneeze at every exposure to bright light, and even then only sneeze a few times.

Interestingly photic sneeze isn’t caused by the light itself, but overly stimulated nerves in the facial cavity. It’s easy to understand that sneezing due to bright lights isn’t easily explained by doctors and scientists – there are several theories but none have a solid functional evolutionary basis. Also, it seems to be passed on from generation to generation – so if either of your parents have it, you very likely have it too.

Health risks 

ACHOO has few health concerns. However instances where sudden light exposure happens can trigger an episode and lead to a dangerous situation. For instance, when driving from a tunnel into bright sunlight sudden sneezing could prove hazardous. Sufferers need to be cautious and know their environments to avoid situations that could trigger a sneezing episode.

Prevention

No cures exist for ACHOO so the best way to prevent a sneezing fit is to minimize the chance of sudden bright light exposure. Doctors often recommend wearing sunglasses to best shield the eyes.

If you believe you may have ACHOO, call us at 920 499-3102 to schedule an appointment with one of our optometrists.

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