Bill Harvey: Sniff ’n’ the tears
Author: Bill Harvey
About a quarter of the UK population suffer from ‘photosneezia’.
As we seem to be surrounded by less than good news at present, I felt duty bound to offer some news as a distraction to our current second wave malaise. You may have picked up a news story over the weekend telling of how researchers at Oxford University are starting a study looking into the phenomenon of photic sneezing, otherwise more eloquently known as photosneezia. This has to be the name of a prog rock album somewhere.
I confess to being one of those people, along with an estimated 25% of the UK, who feel the need to sternutate, or sneeze, in response to bright light, particularly sunlight. I also find that, if I laugh while chewing a fruit sweet, I get shooting pains up one side of my face. When I have mentioned either of these to people in the past, most look at me with a mixture of disdain and sympathy.
But now, it seems, photic sneezing is being taken seriously and research into it is being driven by the fact that eye care practitioners, who regularly shine bright lights upon patients, must do everything they can to reduce the risk of generating aerosols of infective matter. And having a patient sneeze on us is obviously not good.
A current theory suggests the trigeminal response to nasal lining irritation that triggers a sneeze may have some influence from overlapping optic nerve response to bright lights. Further work needs to be done, so the researchers at Oxford University are undertaking a major study into the phenomenon and its impact, the results of which I hope to be able to share in due course.
I am not making this up; this is research not to be sniffed at.