Why Do I Sneeze When It’s Sunny? And Other Fun Gesundheit Facts

Sneezing is an odd sensation, right? Sometimes you can feel it coming and look for ways to speed up the relief it offers. Other times, the sneeze comes out of nowhere and ends up being the loudest noise you’ve made in months. Some of us are big, boisterous sneezers, some are silent sneezers, and some are ten-in-a-row squeaky sneezers. (That last one is my sister-in-law. We’ve learned never to say “bless you” until the series is complete. :-))

The urge to sneeze can come on at the most inopportune time. For me, it’s guaranteed to happen on a gorgeous sunny day. My hubby makes fun of me for sneezing at the sun, which got me wondering: Why do I sneeze when it’s sunny and he doesn’t?

Well, apparently this is a genetic trait that I picked up before I opened my eyes for the first time. As this goofy video by BrainStuff points out, bright light sneezers are born with what’s called ACHOO Syndrome. Either you got it or you don’t.

Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helioophthalmic Outburst (ACHOO) Syndrome blows the sneeze gasket in about one out of four people when they’re suddenly exposed to bright light, such as sunshine. Like any other sneeze, it’s completely involuntary. These people should not be teased about their condition. I’m looking at you, hubby o’ mine.

Side note #1: I wonder if I sneezed at birth? I mean, talk about a sudden change of light levels!?

Side note #2: I’m happy to report I did not pass along this trait to any of our three boys.

The average sneeze is our body’s way of getting irritants out of our nose. They may be allergens. Could be a dust particle. Or it could be your body defending itself against germs and bacteria. Whatever the cause, sneezes are necessary and do the body good.

Here are some other fun gesundheit facts:

  • Gesundheit is an adaptation of the German word gesund, which means healthy. From that was born “gesundheit,” to wish a person good health after sneezing. While I’ve heard debate on which is better, I believe the English “bless you” interjection is equally kind. Don’t cha think?
  • Your heart doesn’t stop when you sneeze. This is merely a silly myth that came from who knows where. While a sneeze does cause a change in blood flow and possibly the rhythm of your heartbeat, it doesn’t stop your heart completely. Also, your eyes won’t pop out of your head if you keep them open while you sneeze. (Though testing this superstition is harder than you’d think.)
  • A UK woman sneezed for 976 consecutive days—the longest sneezing fit ever recorded. Yes, a woman by the name of Donna Griffiths sneezed from January 13, 1981, until September 16, 1983. Assuming she received all kinds of bless yous or gesundheits, it makes a person question the effectiveness of such blessings. Yes?

Who knew sneezing could be so interesting, right?!

Friendly reminder, be sure to cover up that sneeze with a tissue or by burying your nose in your bent elbow. Those babies spray germs all over the place!

Image from iStock/Wavebreakmedia

Paula Widish

Paula Widish, author of Trophia: Simple Steps to Everyday Self-Health, is a freelance writer and self-healther. She loves nothing more than sharing tidbits of information she discovers with others. (Actually, she loves her family more than that—and probably bacon too.) Paula has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Relations and is a Certified Professional Life Coach through International Coach Academy.

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