Jonathan Richie BW.tif

What do you do when you need to sneeze or hold in a sneeze? Also, did you know that ACHOO is a medical condition and not just something funny cartoons say?

I was taught by a friend in seventh-grade gym class to look up at the lights to stop my body from sneezing and have been using that advice ever since. I told a co-worker about this; it led to quite the conversation.

So, I’m in the office and was on the verge of a sneeze for about 15 minutes – something was tickling my nose and I needed to push out this sneeze.

It finally came and I felt much better. I had tissues at the ready and heard a “bless you” from across the office. I responded “thanks” and explained how long I’d been battling said sneeze.

She said, “You should have looked up at the light. That’s how you force a sneeze.”

Then we realized our conflicting pasts of inducing or suppressing sneezes. Kayla learned to look at the light when needing to sneeze and I knew the exact opposite.

Where did we go next? Google, it was worth a Google.

It turns out ACHOO is not just something Bugs Bunny says when he sneezes, it’s a medical condition. Autosomal Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst (ACHOO) or Photosneezia or sun sneezing or photic sneeze reflux is when a person is exposed to bright light, and it causes sneezing.

Yeah, it’s a thing. If I can be a little more scientific, ACHOO syndrome causes sneezing in response to numerous stimuli, such as looking at bright lights or periocular (surrounding the eye-ball) injection.

The condition affections 18-35% of the world’s population. A study done at the University of Alabama at Birmingham looked into this. Their study found that of 367 respondents that “33% were self-recognized photic sneezers with the majority being females (67%) and Caucasian (94.3%).”

So, it wasn’t a very technical survey as everyone was self-reporting. However, it makes sense that this technique works for her, but now I’m worried that my assistant will be sneezing uncontrollably.

“Kayla, I’m pretty sure you’ve got ACHOO syndrome, so watch out.”

“Yeah, I’ll have to be more careful around bright lights.”

“And the sunshine.”

That got us thinking about which one of the titles is best. I prefer sun sneezing.

“Watch out for that one – she’s a sun sneezer.”

As for me, my strategy still works and I’m pretty sure my mustache is what caused my sneezes that morning. There is a good chance that this is like a lot of things – it’s all mental.

If I was told in seventh grade that looking up causes sneezes, I might have been on the same page as Kayla.

Do you have ACHOO syndrome? Hopefully not, because it can lead to ten sneezes in a row and that cannot be pleasant.

Gesundheit (just in case this made you sneeze).