What is the connection between bright light and sneezing? DId you know it was hereditary?I have always noticed that I frequently sneeze when I walk outside, and this was especially noticeable this summer with all of the bright sunny HOT days that we experienced. I thought I had remembered that my mother often did this too and when I asked her she confirmed this.

I was recently reminded of this again when I was with my youngest son moving him back to school. It seemed that every time we walked outside to get another load of boxes he sneezed! We both sounded like “Sneezy” one of the Seven Dwarfs.

Of course my son announced, “Mom are you just realizing this? I have always sneezed just like Ohma and you do”. Oh well, I am finally catching on.

This of course piqued my curiosity and then I remembered that I had read something about “the photic sneeze reflex”.  It has also been name ACHOO: Autosomal Cholinergic Helio-Opthalmic Outburst (and you thought ACHOO was the sound you made!)

It is estimated that this reflex affects about 1 in 4 people. It is inherited in the autosomal dominant manner (remember your days in biology and big B and little b?) If you have the “sneezy gene” your child has a 50-50 chance of also having it.

This reflex has been known for a long time but there wasn’t much science as to the cause. But a recent study (very small only 20 people) compared photic sneezers to controls and found that when shown a shifting pattern of images, the visual cortex of the sneezers showed higher activity than those of the control subjects.

There needs to be much more research done on this topic with larger groups of people studied to further confirm this finding.  But, nevertheless, it is interesting that scientists are now trying to elucidate the mystery of the photic sneeze.

In the meantime I realized that another one of my son’s also has the gene. Funny how you suddenly recognize a familial pattern to sneezing only to find out it is in the genes. It also reminds me I have a blue eyed and 2 brown eyed children, back to those genes again.  Just like they taught me in medical school, take a good family history!

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.