Can You Start Sneezing From Looking at the Sun? Debunking 7 Myths About Sneezing

Fact checked by Megan Soliman MD, MSc
Board-certified physician at Saba University School of Medicine

Sneezing is a reflexive action that occurs when an allergen or irritant irritates the nasal mucosa, triggering a reflexive response in the body to expel whatever irritates your nasal passages.

There are many misconceptions about sneezing. Why do we sneeze? Where does sneezing come from? Is sneezing a symptom of a cold, and is there such a thing as too much sneezing? These are just a few questions that surround sneezing. If you’re looking for answers to these and other questions, keep reading.

Is sneezing good for you?

This is likely the first question on your mind. Is sneezing good for you? Well, it depends on why you’re sneezing.

Sneezing is one of the body’s most important reflexes. It is a natural mechanism to clear your nasal passages of irritants such as dust, pollen, and smoke. Sneezing can also be triggered by a cold or even spicy food. But, if you’re under the weather with a cold or flu virus, then sneezing might indicate that your body is doing everything it can to help fight off infection and relieve symptoms like congestion and a runny nose.

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In contrast, sneezing may be uncomfortable because it can cause pressure in the nasal passages and throat, leading to headaches or dizziness if it becomes severe enough. If you sneeze frequently or have nosebleeds that aren’t related to seasonal allergies or the flu, make an appointment with your doctor.

Can you hurt yourself when sneezing?

You may have wondered if sneezing too much can hurt you. Or even how many sneezes in a row will kill you. Fortunately, hurting yourself when sneezing is very unlikely. If you’re healthy and occasionally sneeze — especially if it’s not bothering you — there’s no need to worry. In fact, it might be good for your health. However, there are some situations in which sneezing can be dangerous. Some include:

  • Sneezing while driving, biking, or walking — especially near traffic — can cause an accident.
  • Sneezing while standing on a ladder may cause the ladder to fall.
  • Sneezing when lifting something heavy can cause back strain or other injuries.
  • Sneezing after a concussion can cause bleeding inside the skull or brain injury.

Also, if you have an upper respiratory infection, allergies, or asthma, sneezing could aggravate your symptoms.

Can you sneeze with your eyes open?

The act of sneezing is a reflexive response to irritants in the nasal passages. Usually, things like pollen or dust cause the nasal mucosa to swell and produce extra mucus. So, when we expel them by sneezing, our eyes close involuntarily.

We close our eyes when we sneeze as a natural defense mechanism against potential foreign objects entering our body during such an explosive moment.

It also helps to prevent any excess mucus or other material from getting into our eyes.

However, some people have found ways around this involuntary reaction and can voluntarily open their eyes while sneezing without any consequences whatsoever on their vision or health. So, yes, you can sneeze with your eyes open.

Can you start sneezing from looking at the sun?

Yes, you can. Sneezing from the sun is a common phenomenon. The eyes are quite sensitive to light, and it is possible to sneeze from looking at the sun. This is called the photic sneeze reflex.

A woman in a park looking at the sun without sneezing

The photic sneeze reflex — or autosomal dominant compelling helio-ophthalmic outburst (ACHOO syndrome) — is a form of sneezing triggered by sudden exposure to bright light. It’s not harmful and doesn’t mean you’re allergic to light or have sinus problems. It is an inherited, dominant reflex, meaning you probably got it from your parents.

The exact cause of the photic sneeze reflex isn’t known. Doctors believe it may be linked to nerves in your eyes connected to your brain and spinal cord. These nerves may respond to temperature and brightness changes when they trigger a sneeze response in some people.

Is sneezing a sign of pregnancy?

Another frequently asked question is if sneezing is a sign of pregnancy. No, it is not. There is no clinical tie between both conditions. Still, pregnant women may sneeze more often because their immune system is more sensitive. There are a few other reasons why they might be sneezing more than usual during pregnancy, including:

  • Hormonal changes affect the nose’s sensitivity, making it more sensitive to environmental allergens or irritants.
  • Swollen nasal passages are working overtime to keep up with everything going on in the body.

Nasal congestion during pregnancy can be caused by hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy. These hormones cause your mucous membranes to produce more mucus than usual, which makes it harder for you to breathe through your nose. Nasal congestion usually worsens in the last trimester due to changes in blood flow to your nose.

Is sneezing too much dangerous?

Sneezing is a normal reflex in the body. The stimulus causing a sneeze may be something that irritates the nose or simply a tickling sensation in the nasal mucosa. Sneezing plays an important role in clearing foreign particles from the nasal cavity and helping to prevent the spread of disease. But have you wondered if sneezing too much hurts you?

A woman sneezing into her elbow during a sneezing attack

When sneezing hurts, it is most likely due to an underlying issue. It’s a natural reflex to sneeze when exposed to something irritating your nasal passages. Sneezing helps clear the airways and keep them healthy. In most cases, if you’re sneezing more than usual, it will not cause any significant problems. It may not always be pleasant, though. There are several different causes of sneezing fits, ranging from allergies and colds to full-blown allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). Here are some ways you can reduce the frequency of sneezes:

  • Stay hydrated with plenty of water and other fluids.
  • Try an over-the-counter antihistamine to reduce nasal congestion.
  • Avoid foods that trigger allergic reactions, such as dairy products, gluten, or peanuts/tree nuts.
  • Limit exposure to pollen-producing plants such as ragweed, grasses, and weeds; keep windows closed when pollen counts are high.
  • Use air filters in your home or car if your allergies are severe.

Can sneezing cause a miscarriage?

No, sneezing does not cause a miscarriage. Sneezing is a common occurrence during pregnancy. It may happen more frequently than usual, but this is not necessarily a sign of a miscarriage or other health problems. Sneezing during pregnancy can be caused by the following:

  • Pregnancy rhinitis (hay fever-like symptoms)
  • Illness, such as the flu, or other infections, such as pneumonia
  • Allergies, particularly if you’re experiencing hay fever

If you’re pregnant and sneeze with the production of mucus or show other signs of illness (such as fever), see your doctor immediately so they can rule out any serious problems.

In conclusion

Hopefully, this article has cleared up some confusion about sneezing. By understanding these seven myths, you can be sure of a few things: Sneezing cannot hurt you, stop you from going out in the sun, or cause miscarriages. If you want to reduce the chances of catching and spreading illnesses that can trigger sneezes, wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. If you find yourself sneezing a lot, try talking to your doctor about it. They can help map out diagnostic and treatment plans.

January 19, 2023