What is ACHOO Syndrome?

Some have to sneeze suddenly and unintentionally when they step out of a dark room into the light, others make fun of it. Sun sneezing is often   misunderstood  as a symptom of a  sun allergy. Aristotle already thought about this phenomenon, which is now known as  ACHOO syndrome  – from its long English name: ACHOO syndrome (Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outbursts of Sneezing) – or also  photic sneezing reflex  .

Sunlight and other triggers

The photic sneeze reflex can be triggered by sunlight, but also by other sources. The manifestations vary in severity, it is assumed that 17 to 35% of the world population will spread, with women being affected more often than men.

People have always wondered what triggers the photic sneeze reflex – Aristotle blamed heat for it, Francis Bacon suspected leaking brain fluid as the solution to the puzzle – and even today the ACHOO syndrome cannot be clearly explained. To date, there is no clinical diagnosis for ACHOO syndrome.

If both you and close relatives have to sneeze every time you step out of the house on a nice sunny day, you can bet you have it.

ACHOO syndrome – causes and countermeasures

It has been assumed for some years that ACHOO syndrome is inherited. If one parent has ACHOO syndrome, there is a 50% chance that their children will inherit it.

The most likely explanation is that in ACHOO syndrome “patients” the optic nerve and the   triplet nerve, which regulates the nasal mucosa , among other things, are too close together. If the optic nerve is irritated by the influence of light, the triplet nerve also reacts and triggers a photic sneeze reflex. The rapid change from light to dark also leads to the photic sneeze reflex in those affected.

However, most people with ACHOO Syndrome sneeze no more than three times (although a few people may sneeze as many as forty times), and after the eyes adjust to the brightness (usually 20 seconds), the urge to sneeze subsides. Even sunglasses can only help with a weak form. There is no other treatment.

A connection between the ACHOO syndrome and a  curvature of the nasal sheath  is often observed. Otherwise, it is assumed that the ACHOO syndrome is harmless – which is why science has not yet put an enormous amount of effort into researching the photic sneeze reflex. Only in traffic, caution may be required, such as when exiting a long tunnel.


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