Monday, June 22, 2009

Solar Sneezing.

Have you ever experienced a "lost sneeze?" You know, when you feel a sneeze coming on and then before you know it, it's gone. I know you know the sensation of which I speak, and it's a terrible letdown. So, about seven or eight years ago, I was with friends at Lake Powell and that "I'm about to sneeze" feeling came. I was preparing to sneeze, but the tickle just sort of fizzled, leaving me very unstatisfied.

"I hate that!"

"Next time just look at the sun," my friend advised.


"When you feel like you're going to sneeze and it just doesn't seem to come out, quickly look at the sun and you'll sneeze in no time," he assured me.

"Really? Hmph. I guess I'll have to try that."

Well, try it, I did. And it COMPLETELY worked. In fact, it works EVERY time! Looking at the sun, or even a bright light will extract that sneeze like nobody's business.

I actually kind of enjoy sneezing. It's a love/hate releationship, but overall sneezing usually feels "good" in some bizarre way; it's oddly liberating. One time during my senior year of high school, I was in drama class and began to sneeze. Once. Twice. Thrice. Then I continued to sneeze until Ms. De, my teacher, asked me to step outside until I was done. Apparently, it was a little distracting. :) I remember counting something like 27 times. It may have been more, I can't recall, but it was so bizarre. I hadn't ever sneezed so many times consecutively, and never have since. It was strangely gratifying... until, of course, they wouldn't stop coming.

So this morning, I woke up and sat up in bed, when suddenly the urge to sneeze came. (Seriously, out of nowhere...I don't know why. Maybe it was the bright sunlight coming in my room...) But the tickle was beginning to fade, so I quickly looked toward my window, where the sun was coming in. Sure enough, I sneezed. It's like magic.

So naturally, wanting to figure out this phenomenon, assured that I MUST not be the only one who does this, I turned to my friend the internet. Turns out that this phenomenon has an actual scientific name, photic sneeze reflex, and occurs in an estimated 18-35% of the population. That means, at least a few of you experience this as well. The rest of will just think I've lost it because they have no idea what I'm talking about. But even Aristotle wondered about it in HisBook of Problems: "Why doth the heat of the sun provoke sneezing?" So I'm not going insane, thank you very much.

This apparent genetic disorder or tendency is also characterized by sneezing when suddenly going from a dark place (a matinee, a tunnel) and then emerging into the full sunlight. Not much is known about the causes, but that's no matter to me. As long as I can get a sneeze out just by glancing toward the sun, I'll call it good.

More info found here.

More info found here, too.

Photo found here.


Kimberlee Koplin Mills St. Clair said...

I completely relate to this....I'm all over a good sneeze...and for some reason, I am currently "allergic" to this, I get some fabulous sneezing going on on a daily basis! Yippy! And the sun thing works every time....

Andrea, Mrs. said...

Totally interesting! Mark told me to look at a light. Doesn't work for me. But, it works for him. You lucky ducks.