Saturday, April 22, 2006

Sneezing in bright light

When you go outside and bright sunlight hits your eyes, do you sneeze? In other words, do you have a photic sneeze reflex?

I sure do. I've been reminded of it frequently during the past few weeks. Spring has arrived on the calendar, and the weather in Vermont is starting to get a clue. A sunny day in the 60s (Fahrenheit) can make you feel so good after a long winter. So often I make a point of escaping my office for a moment, just to take it all in. And sure enough, if it's so bright that I can barely keep my eyes open, I instantly feel that little tickle in my nose, and...Gesundheit! Works every time.

So what's up with that? Why should people sneeze in bright light? It's tempting to come up with a useful function for the photic sneeze reflex; I mean, it couldn't be pointless, could it? For example, maybe the reflex is a mechanism for protecting your eyes. Potentially harmful light rays hit the retina, and the brain forces you to shut your eyes by making you sneeze. Seems like a Rube Goldbergian way to force you to shut your eyes, but why not? The reflex appears to be more common in kids, who would presumably need it more because, compared to adults, they are less likely to have learned that staring at the sun is bad.

Then again, maybe staring at the sun isn't quite as bad as popularly believed. But even if it is, we already have a more direct reflex - called the dazzle reflex - that closes the eyes automatically in blindingly bright light, no sneezing required. Most people don't even have the photic sneeze reflex (although it's not clear exactly how common it is - more on that point below). And according to the generally trustworthy Snopes.com, it is possible for some people to keep their eyes open when they sneeze (no, I'm not one of them).

A larger issue is that reflexes don't need to have a "purpose." There are over 200 reflexes listed in Dorland's Medical Dictionary, and many of them, such as the rooting reflex and sucking reflex in infants, make sense from a functional perspective. But some reflexes really don't. Take the cremasteric reflex. When the upper inner thigh of a man is stroked gently in a downward direction, the scrotum contracts, elevating the testes. It's a cool trick, and one that happens to be clinically useful because its absence can confirm conditions such as testicular torsion or damage at upper lumbar levels of the spinal cord, to name a few. But you'd have a hard time convincing me that the cremasteric reflex has an adaptive function. It's just a consequence of the way things are wired.

Whether or not it has a purpose, the photic sneeze reflex is a real phenomenon that has actually received some attention in the medical literature (although I confess that I first read about the reflex years ago in a hilarious Straight Dope article). The best scholarly reviews I've found were published in 1964 and 1993, both in the prestigious journal Neurology. (Unfortunately the articles are both too old to be online - you'll have to scope out the nearest university library to find them.) The reflex appears to be inherited as an autosomal dominant condition, which means that if Mom or Dad has it, each of their children has a 50/50 chance of getting it too. Geneticists with a sense of humor have even given it a special name: the ACHOO syndrome (Autosomal dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst).

How common is the reflex? The usual answer is 25%, but studies so far have relied on small sample sizes and/or homogeneous populations and the results vary considerably (from 11-36%). No one has really done the "definitive" photic sneeze reflex survey.

So, mostly for fun, I decided to do my own online survey at the Student Doctor Network. As of today, there have been 239 respondents. Obviously it's not a scientific survey, but the SDN forums are designed so that only registered users can vote, and each user can vote only once. It's technically possible for one person to vote multiple times if he/she has multiple user names, but why would anyone bother? It's also possible that some respondents lied, but users are generally anonymous, and in this case there isn't any obvious incentive to be dishonest. Nothing is at stake.

Below are the results, which you can also see here:

Do you sneeze when exposed suddenly to bright light?

Yes, all the time.      20.1%
Yes, sometimes.       27.6%
Yes, but only rarely.    8.0%
No, never.                23.9%
Is this a joke?           20.5%

Probably the most surprising outcome for me is the high percentage - nearly half - of respondents who sneeze at least "sometimes" when exposed to bright light. That's double the usually cited frequency. However, it's not much higher than the 36% reported in a small study of Baltimore neurologists. Probably depends on how you define a "photic sneezer." Is sneezing "sometimes" in the sunlight good enough? Previous studies have also shown evidence of variation with factors such as age and race.

I actually wasn't surprised that so many respondents went with, "Is this a joke?" That phenomenon was described first in the 1964 review:

Finally, it is interesting to note some attitudes of those being questioned about the photic sneeze reflex. Many who do not have it have reacted to such questioning a surprised way, as much as to say, "Are you crazy or something?" Conversely, a woman who does sneeze to light reacted by saying, "Why, I though everyone did!"

Here are a couple other things I learned from the SDN survey:
  • Respondents mentioned a number of other "sneeze stimulants," including mints, grapefruit, chocolate, red wine, and plucking eyebrows. As bizarre as it sounds, plucking eyebrows (along with mints and wine) was mentioned specifically in the 1993 review as a known trigger of sneezing.
  • Several respondents cited the practice of using light to push an impending sneeze "over the edge." One respondent even trained herself to sneeze:
  • I have actually trained myself to sneeze on demand. I know this sounds odd, but once I figured out that sunlight made me sneeze, I began looking up towards the sun or another bright light anytime I felt like I was about to sneeze. I did this in order to speed up the time between when I first felt a tickle to when I actually sneezed.

    Now, if I am thinking about sneezing, and I look up, I will sneeze. Even if it is in a dim room.

    I know I am odd. It's okay.

Well, odd or not, I think sneezing on demand is pretty cool!

81 Comments:

At 4/22/2006 11:23 PM, Blogger NathanGWright said...

The cremasteric reflex sounds like a pickup line from a medical student, "No really... it works!"

 
At 4/23/2006 8:01 AM, Anonymous Moof said...

That's very interesting. I don't sneeze in bright light, however each of my 4 adult kids do. I'd never heard of it before I observed it in them.

Now, when I sneeze, I experience something I've never heard another person mention. First, I have a sudden, rather extreme and disconcerting, attack of acute nausea ... followed within seconds by the sneeze ... followed by immediate and complete relief! (Whew! That was close! *cringe*)

I think that sneezing is an interesting phenomenon anyway. There's a lot of myth and speculation surrounding sneezing ...

"SNEEZING

Or 'a little death' (in places where it is believed the soul momentarily leaves the body with the sneeze). We still use the expression 'Bless you' (short for 'God Bless You'). This stems from the times when a sneeze could mean the plague, viz. 'Coughs and sneezes spread diseases'.

Sneeze 'once for a wish, twice for a kiss, three for a letter, four for something better'. In Scotland, a newborn child is said to remain under 'the fairy spells' until it has sneezed for the first time. It was also believed that an idiot could not sneeze, so that a child's first sneeze was important. If you sneeze when talking you are telling the truth (America); three sneezes before breakfast means you will receive a present during the day (Germany); any sneeze is an indication that someone, somewhere, is saying nice things about you (Japan). It is very lucky to sneeze at exactly the same time as someone else you are with."

http://www.whimsy.org.uk/superstitions.html

 
At 4/23/2006 5:18 PM, Anonymous adam said...

Lots of nasal entries recently! Love the blog though. I dont know how you pick them, but would it be possible to do one on the anatomy of memory?

 
At 4/23/2006 8:32 PM, Blogger Brad said...

Moof - Nausea before sneezing? Every time? That's a new one for me! You're right - sneezing is a fascinating phenomenon, and as far as I know, its anatomy and physiology are still not well understood.

Adam - Yes, I do seem to be fixated on the anatomy of the head, and the nose in particular. Still, the topics of my entries really are random - I don't have a system or a plan. The anatomy of memory... hmm, definitely has potential. Hippocampus, long term potentiation, anterograde amnesia...I think I could come up with something fun. In the meantime, this site looks like a good place to start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocampal_formation

 
At 4/24/2006 3:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wanted to comment that i cough for no reason, sick, healthy, etc each timeI put a green apple jolly rancher in my mouth. I understand this is off of your focus but maybe it would be something else you would want to take a look into.

 
At 4/24/2006 9:51 PM, Blogger Brad said...

Interesting Jolly Rancher observation - that's actually happened to me, too, but not every time. I imagine that some volatile compound in the candy is triggering cough receptors in the trachea or lungs, but who knows...

 
At 5/02/2006 2:36 PM, Blogger beajerry said...

I thought, too, that everyone often sneeze when going into the bright sun.

Just like every guy usually shivers when they pee.

 
At 5/08/2006 10:36 AM, Blogger Dr. Charles said...

very interesting post, thanks for the evidence behind what I've always felt (the urge to sneeze when looking at the sun). Guess I should stop doing that.

PS - I'm signing you up for the tomato contest :)

 
At 5/10/2006 8:15 AM, Anonymous Moof said...

"Nausea before sneezing? Every time?"

To answer your question:

No ... not every time. I don't sneeze often (no allergies, etc.) but I think I can safely say the phenomenon happens about 75% of the time.

Also ... it wasn't always like that. That's only been happening in the last several years.

 
At 5/12/2006 12:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Moog....I have the same weird reaction just before I sneeze. It's an overwhelming nausea and it goes away as soon as I sneeze. I found this blog while trying to figure out why this happens. It began about 6 months ago. Please, does anyone have any information that might be the least bit useful? I'm a nurse and I've never heard of this type of reaction. It's really getting bothersome and I know that one day, when it's the most inopportune time, I'm going to barf/sneeze and embarrass the heck out of myself.

 
At 5/12/2006 10:34 PM, Anonymous Moof said...

Wow ... "Anonymous 2:28 PM" we need to exchange an email or two to see if we have any medical similarities.

Mine is moof @ blogsplot . net ... minus the spaces, of course.

 
At 7/02/2006 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have this same problem and if I had drank the night before it usually makes me throw up after I sneeze.

 
At 7/14/2006 3:46 AM, Anonymous Martin said...

It’s good to see medical people – especially anatomists! – interested in photic sneezing, and your entry makes fascinating reading. I hope you will continue your research, as there are still many unanswered questions about photic sneezing. Indeed, almost every time you swap experiences with another photic sneezer, you will come up with aspects that no one has mentioned in the literature.

You may have come across our website Photic sneezing resources http://www.photic-sneezing.fr.st/. It was created by a group of European “sufferers”, designed to make available as much information as possible on the subject. Though none of us are medical, some have a science background, and we have been in contact with researchers, the latest being JM García-Moreno. There is a translation into English on the site of his study on six Spanish families, and his team has other research coming up.

I can understand you wanting to know more about the prevalence of photic sneezing in the population It’s one of the questions that comes back most often in the feedback from our site, and the existing studies are in disagreement about this, as you note. Part of the problem is probably what you actually call photic sneezing. It seems to be a threshold phenomenon, and there must be different factors which lower the threshold in different individuals that we don’t know about, or only in a fragmentary way. One of our most regular contributors, just to give one example, reports photic sneezing after a meal. This might indicate a combination of the sneezing on a full stomach phenomenon, also touched on in the literature, which seems to lower the photic sneeze reflex in this case. Then there are the many people (a majority of reported photic sneezers?) who only use bright light to bring out a sneeze already started. So where do you draw the line?

Even if you decide to count everything, there are still problems of method. The trouble with self reporting surveys is that people are unreliable in what they report. Most of the existing studies on photic sneezing, however, use this method, which would seem to be a serious handicap. In most prevalence surveys there is a means of checking the reported statements, but this does not seem to be the case for photic sneezing, or at least not yet. What would seem to be an even more serious drawback to asking netsurfers to answer is that your population is made up of people who are already interested in photic sneezing. If someone reads your post but has never experienced photic sneezing, then they will probably not bother answering. Those that have experienced it, or noticed it in their spouse for example, will be more likely to answer. Your idea of putting “is it a joke?” as a possible answer is significant, because these are people surprised by the existence of the phenomenon, and who have responded. There was a Japanese site on the same subject, but it seems to have disappeared http://www.rakuten.co.jp/sei/111563/119334/119338/ They may still know something at the site, if you can speak Japanese.

I am convinced that photic sneezing on a regular basis is fairly uncommon, as the Semes survey suggests. (Semes LP, Amos JF, Waterbor JW. "The Photic Sneeze Response: Descriptive Report of a Clinic Population." Journal of American Optometry Association June 1995, 66(6): 372-377
To get a rough idea, just count the number of people who sneeze when they come out of a cinema and divide it by the approximate number of people exiting. You will be sure to have a very low percentage. I have several times posted myself at the exit of a building where I sneeze every time when I come out into the sun, and have seen up to 50 people coming out without a single sneeze.

But don’t let me discourage you. Have a look at the Photic sneezing resources and then criticize our efforts - I know we are not good at graphics! Your turn!

Martin

 
At 7/24/2006 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have the same nausea feelings just before sneezing. I also found this site trying to understand its biology. My nausea is so acute and powerful that I do not really know if I am going to vomit right then and there. It is only through remembering that I have these feelings just before sneezing that I can convince myself that it is the reason and that sudden nausea is very rare.

I have nausea perhaps 90% of all sneezes. Sometimes more powerful than others depending on whether I have an empty stomach and sometimes my caffein level if you can believe that. The more caffein and light headedness the more the symptoms.

I have had these symptoms as long as I can remember. I am 32 now.

 
At 8/15/2006 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where did you go? Well, good luck in medical school. You shouldn't have to much trouble with the first year anatomy

 
At 9/09/2006 2:01 PM, Blogger TheTundraPA said...

I found your blog and this post through Moof today (9/9/06), so am really late in commenting. I am a photic sneezer, as are my mother and sister; I had no idea it had a name. I also tend to doubt the 25% statistic. It really doesn't seem like that many people do it. It always happens to me, with any bright light, but esp. the sun. An opthalmologist told me once when I asked about it that it only happens to blue- and green-eyed people. But my brother-in-law does it, and he has brown eyes.

Fascinating to read something about this! And good luck in medical school. Quite a change from Vermont to Utah.

 
At 9/23/2006 6:20 PM, Blogger Scott said...

My wife used to do this all the time, and I always gave her the hardest time about it!

 
At 12/28/2006 9:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

NAUSEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Moog....I have the same weird reaction just before I sneeze. It's an overwhelming nausea and it goes away as soon as I sneeze. I found this blog while trying to figure out why this happens. It began about 6 months ago. Please, does anyone have any information that might be the least bit useful? I'm a nurse and I've never heard of this type of reaction. It's really getting bothersome and I know that one day, when it's the most inopportune time, I'm going to barf/sneeze and embarrass the heck out of myself.

ME TOO. I also found this info while searching for answers or insight???? Susan

 
At 3/14/2007 1:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have been looking into the nausea then sneezing aspect because i seem to do it atleast once a day. NOt all, but a majority of my sneezes now come preceeded by the overwhelming feeling of nausea sometimes accompanied with a heat rush or light headedness. If anyone knows anything or just wants to give me a little insight on their own experiences with this please email me at xtasygurl23@aol.com. thank you.

 
At 3/19/2007 12:46 PM, Anonymous Karla said...

I stumbled upon this blog - in research this same issue or "Nausea-then Sneeze" phenomenon. I have been getting nausea - then about 30-60 seconds later I sneeze and the naseau disappears. I wanted to post - just to state this happens to me as well. AND I do not know why... Anyone know?

 
At 4/13/2007 12:17 PM, Blogger DDeden said...

Hi folks, if you want to know:

Why do people (but not other primates) sneeze at the sun?

Why do people (but not other primates) have white eyes?

Why do people (but not other primates)
have external bony noses?

Why do people (but not other primates) have so much skin fat, especially babies?

Why do apes have laryngeal air sacs yet people don't?

The answer my friends is diving at the seashores for a million years.

Believe it or not!

David Deden
Director, Naturalist, Author
The Humboldt Eureka -
Aquamarine Research Clinic
THE-ARC.

 
At 4/17/2007 11:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is shawn. I'm a 39 year old male, just the last few years I've been getting very nausea before sneezing. its terriable to feel so sick that you want to lay down, then you sneeze all of a sudden and then you feel fine. does anyone know what causes this to happen?. e-mail me shawnry1@yahoo.com thank you..... shawn

 
At 4/19/2007 9:40 AM, Blogger davidroyko said...

I also suffer from Nausea>Sneeze, only over the past year or two (I'm 47). I asked my doctor about it at a recent check-up, and he didn't really have any explanation, "but it's not a heart attack, if that's what you're worried about." I hadn't been until he mentioned it!

Any clues as to the nature of this would be appreciated:
davidroyko@yahoo.com

Thanks,
Dave Royko

 
At 5/26/2007 10:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had no idea there was anyone else in the world who had nausea before sneezing. There doesn't seem to be any literature about this and doctors don't really seem to know either. It's such an intense nausea that I feel I need to go stand in the bathroom just in case. What's interesting, though, is when I sneeze because of bright light, I don't get nauseous. It's like the sneeze comes too fast to allow time for nausea. This pre-sneeze nausea is a new phenomenon for me, too. I only developed this bothersome trait a few months ago. Age doesn't seem to be an indicator, though, except that it is not present from birth. I'm afraid I am the youngest person (19 years old) to step forward with this; I hope I don't have it the rest of my life! I am a student at the University of Chicago as well as a Biology major, so I am going to ask some knowledgable faculty to see if I can come up with anything. Let me know if someone else finds some information!

kbailey1@uchicago.edu

 
At 5/31/2007 9:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as a child, i would sneeze in reaction to being hit on the nose (I'm a younger brother, you work it out!) this let to multiple blunt trauma to the nose much to my brothers amusement! Not sure if the reaction is still there, being 35 and avoiding bar fights prevents blunt trauma to the nose!

 
At 6/03/2007 3:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"sneeze stimulants including mints, grapefruit, chocolate, red wine, and plucking eyebrows"

Oh yes, totally!

Just reading this list makes my nose tickle from association.

As someone that 'suffers' from a rather severe case of photic sneezing (turning on the bright bathroom lights at night can cause me to sneeze 5-6 times in a row), I can absolutely confirm the list above.

It's especially bad with very dark chocolate or highly alcoholic drinks.

Whenever I get to eat liquor filled chocolates, a dramatic sneeze-tastical eruption is bound to happen.

 
At 6/14/2007 3:49 PM, Anonymous Dawn said...

Very Interesting article.

Regarding the 'sneezing on demand' woman, I've similar experience, except I can't sneeze unless I stare straight into bright light. Winter and night-time therefore just leave me feeling congested and with that tickling feeling for hours. Gah!

 
At 7/29/2007 8:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have had this feeling of nausea before a sneeze for a while now. I recently had gallbladder surgery and seems to have gone away. My gallbladder was full of stones and very unhealthy.

 
At 8/05/2007 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am pregnant and experiencing nausea (aka "morning" sickness) all day long. When I get to the point that I think I may vomit soon, I start sneezing. It is no coincidence. It has happened consistantly. There must be some kind of link between the sensation of extreme nausea causing an urge to sneeze. I found this blog while looking for answers. No one I know has experienced this and I knew I couldn't be the only one... I would love to find out the biological reason for this.

 
At 8/05/2007 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am pregnant person in the previous post. I forgot to mention that I also sneeze when going outside into BRIGHT sunlight. Usually, it's just one or two sneezes. My husband does not sneeze in bright light and my little boy does not seem to be affected either.

 
At 8/21/2007 6:37 PM, Blogger chrissie said...

I also am pregnant. 25yrs age. and i have this same inexplicable sneeze. Just when i feel like I'm really going to be sick I sneeze 1 or 2 times then I'm fine. It's such a relief.

I also stumbled here looking for a reason why this happens. so I guess I'll add my name to this list and wait. :)

 
At 9/26/2007 6:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous...
I sneeze 2 to 3 times almost everytime I walk into bright sun...going into a store and coming out. If I don't sneeze I will just about always feel the sneeze tickle anyway. One of my sisters is the same way. My mom says she does the same thing too.

 
At 9/27/2007 7:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My infant baby is a photic sneezer. Neither my husband nor I (nor our elder child) is, but my sister has apparently been one her whole life
(though I have no recollection of this). So while it may have a genetic component, it's not dominant as some people suggest.

 
At 9/28/2007 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Everyone.

Me too - with the extreme nausea followed by a huge sneeze. Both are so extreme. The nausea grips my body as if I have no control over what will happen next. Then followed by a huge, body wracking almost painful sneeze. Then the great relief.

I'm wondering if there may be some link to this phenomenon and hypoglycemia? Anyone else have input on this?

The nausea/sneeze happens to me only when I am really hungry. If I forget to eat or go too long without eating I will start to feel really ill. Mostly hypo-glycemic symptoms - nausea, light headed and if left too long mental confusion. These things will always happen to me in this circumstance but it is only sometimes that I have the big sneeze which it breaks the cycle. Causing me to feel better instead of worse.

The big point I am trying to make is that if I eat small meals frequently and never allow myself to get too hungry - none of the symptoms occur. I don't get the nausea and therefore - no sneeze.

I've been to the doctor regading my hypoglycemic symptoms and she sent me for blood tests. But - I tested negative for low blood sugar. So, according to my doctor, I am not hypoglycemic. It doesn't matter to me though. I know that if I eat as if I am I feel so much better.

I hope this helps some of you.

And oh yah - to the person who mentioned caffiene/coffee - Caffeine aggrevates hypoglycemia and can often trigger a hypoglycemic attack - maybe there is a relation in that for you?

I would love to find some concrete answer to this...

 
At 11/01/2007 8:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the hypoglycemia theory. I have experienced the same reaction for years and it has become a bit of a joke.

 
At 12/14/2007 10:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is awesome. I'm the latest person to add my 2 cents--I'm 33 and for really only the last 2 years I've had nausea before sneezing too. I am also a photo-sneezer--and an eyebrow plucking sneezer, but no red wine or chocolate sneezing here. Any intense pain to the nose or nostril area (such as doing the worst thing ever-like popping a pimple in the general vicinity) and I'll sneeze too. Hypoglycemia huh? I have a good metablolism and I have been told that my blood sugar was pretty low (not to hypoglycemic level i don't think) after I had blood drawn soon after eating. Someone should bring this to the attention of a researcher--great stuff! you can email me at fantasticintergalactic "at" yahoo.com if anyone is assembling a group.

 
At 12/29/2007 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had this nausea associated sneezing problem for a few years now and my girlfriend experiences the same thing, even before we met (but to a lesser frequency/intensity). On the rare occasion that I ask other people, I get rather peculiar looks.

This phenomenon usually occurs 65-75% of the time I sneeze and most often when I am hungry as one of the bloggers pointed out.

Another thing that has occurred around the same time is that I get a sneeze within a sneeze. This is very, very infrequent but when it happens many around me are amazed or concerned. Once I literally had 3 sneezes happen followed by the most intense sensation of nausea resulting in the first and only time I threw up. Has anyone else been experiencing 1 or more sneezes within a sneeze?

Please keep me in the loop as this is one of the few outposts for nausea associated sneezing on the web. howcanibe "at" hotmail.com

-how

 
At 1/16/2008 2:46 PM, Anonymous maz said...

this is incredible!! i hadn't heard of photic sneezing although have been a sufferer all my life. initially i'd believed that everyone had it and only in my late teens did i find out that i was wrong when my boyfriend and sister would laugh at me and think me strange for sneezing in sunlight. i'm also an eyebrow plucking sneezer (though interestingly only when i'm plucking my left eyebrow). i generally sneeze in threes and can sometimes deliberately cause sneezing by looking at bright lights. even a bright sunlit room can set me off, and sometimes the sneezes can come in waves for about ten minutes after exposure to bright light. also, once the initial sneezing fit has stopped, i sometimes have the uncomfortable tickle in my nose which won't result in a sneeze however hard i try to force it (i.e. by looking towards the sun deliberately). i've not experienced this nausea sneezing you have been dicussing but i find that incredibly interesting and fully agree that someone should research that.

 
At 2/01/2008 12:27 AM, Anonymous Lunazen said...

This is so interesting! I too have the nausea then sneeze thing. I noticed this the first time when I was pregnant with my second child in 1998. It still hapens every now and then.

I mentioned it to my registered nurse midwife, and he looked at me like I was nuts! lol.

Like many of you, I found this blog by doing a search on "sneeze when nauseous." Glad to know I'm not the only one, although it is a bit disconcerting that the medical community seems to have no clue why this happens to some of us.

 
At 3/21/2008 12:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I to have been suffering from the intense nausea 'am I going to puke or sneeze' phenonoma for the last few months. I didn't think about it too much until a few days ago when I actually DID throw up! Twice! I have been searching for an answer and so far haven't found one but have found many fellow sufferers. I frequently sneeze many times (4-10) after a sudden onset of severe nausea (interestingly I noticed some people regarded the nausea as an accompaniment to the sneezing and others (like myself) figured the sneezing was caused or brought on by the nausea). Which came first? The nausea or the sneeze? Has ANYBODY got any ideas? Is this some kind of neural response?

 
At 4/07/2008 3:03 PM, Blogger Kathryn said...

I, too, was searching for a correlation between nausea and sneezing and happened across this post. Mine also occurs when I've missed a meal, when I've had caffeine or when I'm super hungry. I have very low blood sugar as well, which I saw some of you had mentioned. Just wondering if anyone else had figured anything out on this phenomenon. Its really annoying to get that nauseous but the sneezing seems to help. It just started a couple years ago but never fails now.

 
At 4/21/2008 2:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog entry. I always thought what I had was called the Dazzle Reflex. After reading this entry, I now know it's called the Photic Sneeze Reflex.

Crazy thing is as a child, my cousins used to play around with me. They'd say, "Hey, Michael Scott, " (yes, they'd use both names), "come here!" Then they'd turn the lamp on and off and make me sneeze. I was unaware of this activity until at a family reunion a few years back they recanted the old stories of messing with family members. Good stuff.

Just as the article stated, I always thought EVERYONE did this. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I realized I was in the proverbial 25%.

I have two children now. One sneezes just as I do - nearly on command and especially when walking outside during a sunny day - the other hasn't shown any symptons yet. Looks as if I've nailed the 50/50 option!

 
At 4/26/2008 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone else sneeze when they have a full stomach or when they are hungry? I sneeze every time I eat until I am full (I know, "then don't eat so much!") I haven't talked about this to more than 1 or 2 people ever, mostly because I don't think about it unless it is happening. I use to sneeze when I was younger and plucked my eyebrows, but that never happens anymore. If someone bumps me in the nose, I sneeze. My brother has the photic sneezing and my sister will ALWAYS sneeze three times in a row, if she sneezes at all. My other 4 brothers have never mentioned any "odd" sneezing problems. This is sure interesting, and something we never really hear about on tv or talk radio. Have a great Summer everyone!

 
At 4/28/2008 12:15 PM, Blogger twh305 said...

Couldn't the cremasteric reflex occur to protect the all important, potentially life producing testicles from harm as a man walks through brush, briars, tall grass, etc. by pulling them closer to the body and further from harm's way?

 
At 6/02/2008 6:31 PM, Anonymous Tayrah52871 said...

I am red-headed, but have very dark brown eyes, and have been a photic sneezer for as long as I can remember. In adulthood, I also began having runs of sneezes, after eating milk of any kind (cheeses of any sort including cream, sour cream, butter, and plain milk, among others, but not eggs). It matters not if it's hot or cold. My four year old with hazel eyes is also a photic sneezer. My seven year old has it much milder than either of us, sneezing only occasionally in bright light.

 
At 6/07/2008 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing! I too did a search about nausea before sneezing and found this blog.

Despite the lack of concrete information as to WHY this happens, it's good to know that I'm not the only person who suffers from this (even though it's rather infrequent). I was recently told a friend about the problem after it occured while we were traveling together and she looked at me like I was nuts!

I'm 26, female and in good health. The nausea/sneeze began with me about 3 or 4 years ago, but I can count the number of times it's happened to me on one hand. The hypo-glycemia theory is an interesting one. At least two of my episodes (nausea, followed by one sneeze and then no more nausea) came when I was hung over and there was nothing in my stomach, and during both episodes, I had been feeling rather bad, but not sick to my stomach until that very moment. I have no idea if the hangover has anything to do with it, as the other episodes I've had haven't come during hangovers, and frankly, I can't remember if I had anything in my stomach at the time or not. I'll definitely pay closer attention to it next time.

Just me two-cents. Glad to see other people have this issue as well.

-Jesse

 
At 7/16/2008 6:58 AM, Blogger Milaska said...

I have experienced the nausea and sneeze-when-hungry thing since I was a child. It most commonly happens in the morning, if I delay breakfast. It rarely happens at other times of the day when I'm hungry.

Does anyone know causes this reaction? Nausea when hungry is strange enough, let alone sneezing on top of it.

 
At 8/13/2008 6:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I asked my doctor about the sneezing/nausea thing and he said I was not crazy at all. This is fairly common and the act of sneezing actually is your bodys way of raising blood sugar. I never knew that sneezing raised blood sugar. Learn something new everyday!! So there none of you are crazy! Amy

 
At 10/15/2008 6:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hurrah! I'm not crazy! (Well, not about this, anyways) I just searched for low blood sugar and sneezing which brought me here.

This just happened to me tonight. I hadn't eaten since breakfast and all of a sudden got that sudden nausea and cold sweat when your sugar drops. As usual, I sneezed about a minute later and felt much better. Went downstairs and had some dinner and I'm fine.

Glad to hear it's not just me that has this problem. I agree with others that I'd love to have concrete medical reasons behind this. Perhaps then I wouldn't have people look at me like I'm nuts when I mention it.

 
At 10/16/2008 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so glad that I stumbled across this page. I have been having the nausea/sneezing combo for almost a year now. I always have this horrible nausea that makes me want to run to the bathroom, then I sneeze (only once) and it goes aways completely. I work in the medical field and have asked doctors and nurses and haven't found a straight answer. I'll look into the low blood sugar thing, though, because I always describe the nausea as "you know when you're so hungry you're nauseous?" Maybe my sugar is just low...

 
At 11/10/2008 5:57 AM, Blogger Gladys Hobson said...

At last an answer to my problem and I am not nuts!
For a while I have had sudden attacks of nausea (with that sort of faint feeling) which could happen anywhere anytime. Now when it happens (daily, anywhere anytime - just now when I was finishing a meal) I sneeze, followed by another about a minute later.
Well, while undergoing investigations about other things, I have mentioned the nausea/faint thing to have it dismissed. I expect I will now raise a smile if I mention the sneezing too!
Glad I am not alone.

 
At 11/25/2008 1:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone ever sneezed during intercourse?? I usually sneeze two to three times in a row and the sneezes are triggered by light as well as many other factors. A few weeks ago I sneezed while my boyfriend was inside me and he said it was very painful. It was the first time that happened for either of us. Just wondering if anyone else has had any similar experience.

 
At 12/03/2008 11:33 PM, Blogger Carmen said...

I just googled, "why do I feel nauseous before I sneeze" and poof...found this blog entry. I'm so glad I'm not the only one. Funny, I think this happens to me before lunch normally. I sneeze in bright light, not always, but sometimes and that never causes nausea. I sneeze from the pain near the nostrils, and that also doesn't cause nausea. I have a head cold this week and am sneezing like crazy (I just did 10 seconds ago) and these have had no nausea. So maybe it is a blood sugar thing. I was worried it may be neurological. Phew. PS: I'm 31 and this started about 2 years ago.

 
At 12/20/2008 10:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting blog.

My case is the same as the one having 'sneeze on demand'. Somehow I am able to do it anytime with a bright light. The one thing that I dont like about sneezing is that, when I start, the hardest part is stopping it. I can sneeze for 20+ times or until i am exhausted. If I do that, I usually end up with my eyes swollen. Then I get a slight fever.

However, I have managed to train myself to stop sneezing after 2-4 times or even prevent sneezing to avoid exhaustion that often leads to my eyes getting swollen. What I do is intensely think of a lot of things with my eyes close. The rush of thoughts seem to do the trick for me and often like 70% I can stop the sneezing or even prevent it from happening.

But I love the feeling after I sneeze a couple of times. It relieves me with any stress and it is just a wonderful feeling (as long as it stops after a few times).

Cheers!
(knight2seven at yahoo dot com)

 
At 2/05/2009 7:47 PM, Blogger Mary Catherine said...

I can crank out a sneeze with bright light. It's normally just to push me over the edge or to bring about the sneeze faster. It doesn't happen too often if I don't already have to sneeze.

I've noticed recently that chewing Big Red makes me sneeze after about 10-15 minutes. Nothing happens with mints or eyebrow plucking, though.

Also, I had no idea that this didn't happen to everyone! I'm one of those (obviously) who assumed it was 100% normal - that is until someone told me it wasn't a couple of days ago. Now that I've asked a few of my friends about it, I realize it's a lot less common than I thought it was (besides looking at the numbers posted online).

 
At 3/22/2009 9:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm another one of those people who get suddenly extremely nauseous, and feel like I have to lay down or pass out or vomit. Within a few minutes, I sneeze 1-3 times, and am all better. It happens to me in the morning, not long after breakfast, and only once in a while. I remember it first happening when I was a teenager, after taking a protein drink for breakfast. When I asked the Dr. about it, he said it could be an allergic reaction to one of the minerals in the drink. I do tend to pass out more frequently in the morning, after a blood draw or other medical procedure, than in the afternoon. I have low blood pressure, and probably am not well hydrated in the morning, they tell me. Could dehydration be a cause of this weird phenomenon?

 
At 4/05/2009 8:31 AM, Blogger Cassie said...

I have the sneeze/nausea reaction as well! I've actually thrown up once (into a plastic bag while driving on the freeway, no less.) I always thought that the nausea was a side effect of being on the verge of sneezing and not the other way around. It's good to hear I'm not the only one, I've asked my doctor before and he had no answers. I have very low blood pressure and am anemic but I'm not sure about the blood sugar. I'll have to pay more attention when it happens!

 
At 4/06/2009 4:02 AM, Anonymous Eric said...

...and the list goes on. I too have the dreaded nausea/sneeze. My wife thought I was just weird. I have never told anyone else because I guessed they would think the same. My mother told me yesterday that she has been experiencing the same thing. I wish someone could find some medical reason. As far as sugar levels go, my mom is diabetic. She has very high sugar levels. I have had mine tested but seems to be fine. I suspect that sometimes my levels either drop suddenly or spike. Another strange thing about my sneezing is that there is usually a nasty smell afterwords. It's kind of musty smelling. I guess maybe I am weird. Please someone study this.

 
At 4/17/2009 3:24 PM, Blogger tnahowru said...

sneeze/barf - today is the first time i've had these symptoms and i'm 52. but mine is slightly different than all of yours...i feel as if i'm going to sneeze (but i don't sneeze) and have the barf feeling at the same time as the sneezing feeling. but i just ate a big meal so shouldn't it be going away? i had it before lunch and i'm still having it after lunch.

 
At 5/05/2009 6:51 PM, Blogger Audge said...

Yup, me too! Feeling the intense urge to sneeze- then feeling extremely nauseous, so I look at a bright light which helps me sneeze! It only happens at work though, where I don't eat to much...I like the raising blood sugar explaination!

 
At 6/06/2009 7:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've known about the photo-sneezing and what causes it, but I also think there might be a link between this and hunger-sneezing. Any info?

 
At 6/11/2009 3:04 PM, Anonymous TikiMon said...

Yep, another "Me too!" on the blood-sugar sneeze, and also on "no info elsewhere." You're neither crazy nor alone, folks.

Dang, but medicine is still so primitive...

 
At 7/12/2009 8:46 PM, Blogger Judith said...

when I'm starving, and my blood sugar is low, I get very nauseous, then the sneezing commences! I will sneeze several times, very loud boisterous sneezes!... two or three of them, then I will feel measurably better. My husband has come to recognize it as the "hunger sneeze." Very interesting that there are many of us. Eye-brow plucking can bring on multiple, rapid-fire, sneezing bouts for me.

 
At 7/26/2009 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this is quite old, but I also get the nausea sneeze thing. I'm 20 now, but I've had it as long as I can remember, in one way or another. When I was younger I only ever sneezed right before I vomited. Now when I get that nauseous feeling coming on I know i can sneeze and it will go away, and I very rarely sneeze without the nausea. I always thought it was just me, too. Odd.

 
At 8/04/2009 6:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have always had the tendancy to sneeze in reaction to bright light. I recently invested in a nose hair trimmer (TMI I know), and guess what? Voila! For some reason trimming nose hairs away has, for me, significantly reduced sneezing episodes in reaction to bright lights.

I seem to be running into a lot more doorways in the dark, now, however. But that seems to be the only down side.

Great blog!

 
At 8/20/2009 7:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a 48-yr.-old man who has had photic sneezing and pre-sneeze nausea as long as I can remember. I actually enjoy the relief of being able to sneeze when I need to by briefly glancing at a bright light (although I'm not a fan of the few seconds of nausea before the release of the sneeze). As most everyone else has already mentioned, the nausea goes away within seconds of sneezing. I also have the "sneeze smell" sensation that I've seen discussed in other forums online. I'm talking about a strong, sweet smell--sort of like honey--for a second or two just after a good sneeze. This is not an internal thing since other people can smell it when I sneeze (and I've smelled another family member's "sweet sneeze" smell before myself--which smelled exactly like mine). I believe all three things are somehow related and wondered if others experience them all three like me. I've asked doctors and searched in medical books and online for an explanation and can't ever find anything that's terribly concrete. It's funny that something as basic as a human sneeze isn't really understood all that well.

 
At 12/22/2009 8:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Until reading this Blog, I would have sworn I was the only nauseated sneezer. I've never met anyone else who has experienced this intense nausea which is miraculously relieved by sneezing. Anyone I've ever told thought I was making it up or just nuts or weird. It's so intense I feel like I'm going to hurl, except I don't get the watery mouth like I do with a stomach ailment nausea. That's mainly how I know I'm going to sneeze and not be sick. I feel nausea before I sense the sneeze coming on. I've often looked into the sun or light to bring about the sneeze so I can get rid of the nausea. The more nauseous I feel, the bigger the sneeze. Sometimes I'm barely finished one sneeze before another one starts. Also, on a rather odd note I'm sure because no one has mentionned it... Just before I'm about to sneeze, my tongue curls over the left side of my upper lip. Both the tongue and nausea thing have been going on for as long as I can remember.

 
At 12/22/2009 8:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the blogger above... the nauseated tongue hanging out sneezer. Something I've often wondered was if the inner ear had something to do with the nausea-sneeze thing. I've experienced episodes of intense virtigo if I was anything but upright. The doctor informed me that the sensory stones in the inner ear can sometimes get out of place sending strange signals. They test for this by laying you down and turning your head to the side quickly. I also had several recurring ear infections as a child and had tubes in my ears. Maybe the sneeze resets an inner ear imbalance that's making us nauseated? What does anyone think of that theory?

 
At 1/16/2010 12:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey anonymous 12/22/09...
Yours sounds almost exactly like mine! I will purposefully look at the light to get it over with. I also do the tongue curling. The sweet thing is there as well.
I have no proof, but I firmly believe these are symptoms of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. What I have read about hypoglycemia is that when your blood sugar is getting very low, you get nauseous (no mention of sneezing in the literature). Once you get nauseous your body begins to pull sugar from your fat reserves (was said in much more med-speak, but that was the jist). I theorize that as the sugar is released from your fat, it floods the body with endorphins or whatever, the sugar may be picked up by the olfactory processes, causing the sneeze, in addition to the sweetish taste. A med student could probably do a good paper on this.
All I know is I get really irratable if someone interrupts the oncoming sneeze as I want to get the nausea over with. Irritability is also a by-product of low blood-sugar. After the sneezing, I usually get a carb or yogurt and feel much better. Very odd phenomena. I have not been diagnosed as hypoglycemic. My doc is always impressed by my fasting blood sugar, yet, the truth is, it is never a fasting blood sugar, I have usually already eaten with two hours. (I am the judith from above posts)

 
At 1/16/2010 12:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, seems like us nausea sneezers have taken the lead despite the intended topic.

 
At 1/16/2010 12:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just read where dogs who have hypoglycemia sneeze a lot, interesting...

 
At 1/16/2010 1:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

another thread on nausea sneezing:
http://boards.webmd.com/webx?THDX@@.897f212d!thdchild=.897f212d

 
At 1/24/2010 4:41 PM, OpenID oxypetala said...

Just chiming in to add myself as another 'nausea' sneezer. I have always associated it with hunger, and agree with the low blood sugar hypothesis. I have been mildly hypoglycaemic my entire life, and call it being 'useless hungry' because it can get bad enough to render me almost unable to stand, and that was that phrase I used to describe it when I started getting it at a very young age.

When I hit the point of hunger where my blood sugar is starting to get low, I begin to feel nauseous, and it builds to a point where I think I might dry heave, but then I sneeze instead and feel much better. This cycle will repeat until I eat/get my blood sugar back up.

This has been a consistent factor throughout my entire life. Fortunately, as an adult, I have largely figured out how to keep my blood sugar even with small, frequent meals, and snacking when that is not enough. I hope those of you with intense, distressing nausea symptoms can find some relief by trying the same thing.

 
At 4/17/2010 4:22 AM, Blogger bubbleyness said...

Hi ,i sneeze when i eat chocolate every time as long as its the good stuff.
But i also sneeze "like a cat"
I can only do little sneezes because if i do really big loud windy sprayie sneezes it hurts ,like water rushing up your nose.. weird..
I am tired of people comenting on how my sneeze sounds like a cat or something and saying "aww its so cute"
aghhh dunno whats wrong with me.
I have a twin and she also sneezes after eating chocolate .

 
At 2/04/2011 7:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know anything but light and sneezing, but if I'm trying to STOP myself from sneezing, I press firmly right under my nose--above the gum of my upper teeth, and it has never failed to stop a sneeze!

 
At 9/26/2011 11:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have also trained myself to sneeze, in fact I sneeze every night before I go to bed because it kinda puts me out. I know it sounds weird but I can sneeze on demand any time I want to with a little access to light. I can also sneeze up to 6 times in a row.

 
At 12/27/2011 10:25 PM, Blogger Zola the Gorgon said...

Now that we've got photic sneezing out of the way (and I am a photic sneezer as was my husband and our sons) does anyone get pains in the hands when they urinate? I notice one contributor here says men shiver when they urinate but I'd be interested to hear if anyone else's hands hurt when they are on the loo.

 
At 5/03/2012 11:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this page when I googled "sneezing low blood sugar." Almost every day starts off with a sudden attack of nausea and weakness, followed by a huge sneeze which relieves the symptoms entirely. My metabolism is very low and I often forget to eat, I'll only experience one of these "hunger attacks" once a day, after which I'll have enough energy for the entire day even if I don't end up eating anything. When it doesn't happen within an hour of waking up it'll sometimes happen later in the day, especially if I get hungry and ignore it. At first I wasn't sure what to make of it, but after experiencing it almost every day like clockwork for years I know for sure that it has something to do with low blood sugar, and finding this page confirms it.

The symptoms themselves are completely debilitating, I usually have to stop what I'm doing and sit or lay down. Within 30 seconds I sneeze once, stand up, and continue with whatever I was doing. The symptoms can be best described as feeling as though your body is shutting down entirely. The sneeze brings unimaginable and immediate relief. The very reason so many people have found this page is because the sneeze so consistently and obviously relieves the symptoms.

Somebody was on the right track when they said that the body starts breaking down energy reserves during times of low blood sugar. I think it's something about this process that causes the sneeze, although I'm unsure as to why it relieves the symptoms themselves. Perhaps sneezing releases a small amount of epinephrine (adrenaline), which sort of tides the body over until it's finished releasing its energy stores?

If anybody finds something out about this in the future or wants to ask me something about it, contact me at kodiak50000 @ hotmail . com

 
At 5/14/2012 12:13 PM, Anonymous Drusy Vug said...

I sneeze in bright light, when I eat breath mints, and when I pluck nose hairs. I read somewheres on the online that genetically about 25% of humans have photic sneeze reflex and that those 3 stimuli trigger sneezing because of the close proximity (by happenstance or evolutionary advantage?) of those corresponding sites/nerves in the brain to the that of the sneeze reflex.

 
At 2/13/2013 3:26 AM, Blogger nahidworld said...

The rooting reflex is an important reflex in a newborn baby. It is vital because it helps a baby be able to find his mother’s breast and nurse.

 
At 3/02/2013 6:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't little death or "petit morte" an orgasm?

 

Post a Comment

<< Home