Here I thought I was the only one but apparently photic sneezing has received enough attention to get researchers interested in it. Apparently it’s an ancient problem:
Aristotle mused about why one sneezes more after looking at the sun in The Book of Problems: “Why does the heat of the sun provoke sneezing?” He surmised that the heat of the sun on the nose was probably responsible.
Some 2 ,000 years later, in the early 17th century, English philosopher Francis Bacon neatly refuted that idea by stepping into the sun with his eyes closed–the heat was still there, but the sneeze was not (a compact demonstration of the fledgling scientific method). Bacon’s best guess was that the sun’s light made the eyes water, and then that moisture (“braine humour,” literally) seeped into and irritated the nose.
Humours aside, Bacon’s moisture hypothesis seemed quite reasonable until our modern understanding of physiology made it clear that the sneeze happens too quickly after light exposure to be the result of the comparatively sluggish tear ducts. So neurology steps in: Most experts now agree that crossed wires in the brain are probably responsible for the photic sneeze reflex.
It’s apparently an autosomal dominant trait, which would explain why other members of my family have the reflex too. Anyone else a photic sneezer?