You quietly enjoy the sun, sitting on the terrace of a café with friends. However, despite this moment of relaxation you can't help but sneeze more or less loudly and repetitively! Strange, because no pollen, no cold! Don't worry, it's not necessarily a virus or other illness, but simply a reflex reaction , called the sternutatory reflex or " heliotrophic sneeze ". Rest assured ; almost one person in four is in this case and already in his time Aristotle had noticed this phenomenon!


This photosternutatory reflex occurs during a sudden change in brightness . You were in a cellar or in a movie theater and come into broad daylight with bright, intense light. Then, the light “hits” the retina and in defense response, the optic nerve controls the closure of the pupils via an electrical signal. And the optic nerve is very close to the trigeminal nerve which controls sneezing in the presence of particles that irritate the nose.

Like electric wires touching each other

One hypothesis is that part of the signal traveling in the optic nerve would be picked up by the trigeminal nerve, as if two electrical wires touched, causing a sneeze .

However, there are few studies on the subject, because it does not represent any danger to our health. Except perhaps if it hits you repeatedly when exiting the tunnels on the highway!

What solutions to the sternutatory reflex?

This natural phenomenon would be hereditary and there would therefore be no real "solution" to remedy it... Adopting good sunglasses could nevertheless reduce the "striking" shock of the sun on the retina and limit the sternutatory reflex. They would indeed let your eyes gradually adapt to the dazzling light.

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