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Q: genetics ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: genetics
Category: Health > Conditions and Diseases
Asked by: tosop-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 10 Jul 2005 07:30 PDT
Expires: 09 Aug 2005 07:30 PDT
Question ID: 541808
Several people in my family, myself included, sneeze regularily, even
though we do not live together, some 9 to 13 times a bout. There seems
to be no reason,
allergenic or otherwise, except that we are related.
Can it be genetic?
Subject: Re: genetics
Answered By: clouseau-ga on 10 Jul 2005 13:20 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hello tosop,

Thanks for your question.

The answer is - it could be genetic.

Scientific American talks about "sun sneezing" with genetic causes:

"...Why does bright light cause some people to sneeze?  
W. Quay  
Americus, Ga.  
Roberta A. Pagon, a professor of pediatrics at the University of
Washington, explains.

Reflexive sneezing induced by light, and sunlight in particular, is
estimated to occur in 18 to 35 percent of the population and is known
as the photic sneeze reflex (PSR) or the ACHOO (autosomal dominant
compulsive helio-ophthalmic outbursts of sneezing) syndrome. Its
genetic nature has been known for at least the last 25 years; it is
periodically discussed in the medical literature and lay press.
Observations that emerging from dim light into sunlight or turning to
face directly into the sun commonly triggers the reflex prompted early
inquiries into the trait. The number of induced sneezes--which seems
to be genetically mediated and can be predicted within a family--is
constant from episode to episode and typically numbers two or

Another explanantion of this can be fouind here:

"...This is known as a "photic sneeze". It is an inherited (i.e.
genetic) characteristic affecting about 18-35% of the population.
Basically, it occurs because the reflexes of the nose and eyes are
closely related. Both the eyes and nose are served by the same cranial
nerve, and the signals sometimes cross over. It's just like when you
pull a hair out of your nose - it makes your eyes water, because the
stimulus (pain) in the nose has caused a reflex in your eyes. When you
look into a bright light, your eyes send a signal to your brain saying
that there's too much light, and your brain responds by making you
constrict your pupils and squint to limit the amount of light going
into your eyes. Because of the crossing-over of signals, though, the
brain also gets a message that your nose is being irritated too, so it
also makes you reflexively sneeze..."

And here:

"...Collie et al. (1978) described a 'disorder' characterized by
nearly uncontrollable paroxysms of sneezing provoked in a reflex
fashion by the sudden exposure of a dark-adapted subject to intensely
bright light, usually sunlight. The number of successive sneezes was
usually 2 or 3, but could be as many as 43. The 4 authors were the
probands of the 4 families they reported. Several instances of
male-to-male transmission were noted. Sneezing in response to bright
light was said by Peroutka and Peroutka (1984) to be a common yet
poorly understood phenomenon.
           Photic sneeze reflex was suggested as the appropriate
designation by Everett (1964), who found it in 23% of Johns Hopkins
medical students. In a poll of 25 neurologists at Johns Hopkins,
Peroutka and Peroutka (1984) found the phenomenon in 9, but only 2 of
the respondents knew that such a specific reflex exists. The Peroutkas
(father and daughter) reported the reflex in 3 generations of their
family: grandfather, the father (the proband), his brother and his
daughter. The index subject (S.J.P.) invariably sneezes twice when he
moves from indoors into bright sunlight..."

Diesel exhaust can trigger sneezing with those geneticaly so inclined:

"February 02, 2004
Diesel Exhaust Might Trigger More Sneezing, Coughing
As if the sneezing and watery eyes were not bad enough, California
researchers have found that airborne components of diesel engine
exhaust significantly worsen allergy symptoms in people with a certain
genetic makeup..." has some fascinating information on sneezing:

"... would like to know why almost every time I tweeze my eyebrows, I
sneeze at least twice. I have sisters and friends who have this
phenomenon also.

"I happen to be an eyebrow tweezer, and I don't sneeze. I've not heard
of that," comes a bold confession of ignorance from Roberta Pagon,
sneeze expert.

Pagon was among a flock of docs who, while sitting around a cafeteria
table at a pediatrics conference some years back, fell into a
discussion of their sternutatory habits. Four of the 10, they
discovered, sneezed when exposed to bright light. Being scientists,
they wrote up their discovery for publication. Being scientists, they
gave the syndrome a really bad acronym. How they figured that
"Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst Syndrome"
adds up to ACHOO, instead of ADCHOOS, is beyond me. ("Helio" refers to
the sun; "Opthalmic" to the eyes.)
Nonetheless it describes a real syndrome. In fact you probably know
someone with ACHOO: Twenty to 30 percent of the population suffers
this amusing abnormality.

 The absence of a firm estimate reflects geneticists' low esteem for
the subject and a tragic lack of scholarship.
In a nutshell when a person with ACHOO steps outdoors into sunlight,
he or she suffers "nearly uncontrollable paroxysms of sneezing
provoked in a reflex fashion," Pagon and her collaborators wrote. The
probing practitioners noted that not only does ACHOO syndrome run in
families (it's a dominant trait), but genetics also determines the
number of sneezes.

"In my family it's three sneezes," says Pagon, a professor at the
University of Washington School of Medicine, "but someone else's
family had eight." If that's starting to sound a little less amusing,
consider that one of the subjects reported an ACHOO attack involving
43 outbursts.

ACHOO, however, isn't the only syndrome that can bring on an outburst.
Sneezing, it turns out, can be inspired by a bewildering range of
nonsensical stimuli.
Sneezing fits can be triggered by combing hair, tweezing eyebrows,
rubbing the inner corner of the eye, and even by eating too much.

 Yes, eating too much. Eleven years after ACHOO got its name, another
scientific paper chronicled the sad fate of a man, his three brothers,
one of his two sisters, his grandfather, his father, an uncle and the
uncle's son. All must harass their hankies after a big meal, and the
number of sneezes for each family member runs from three to 15.
Imagine Thanksgiving at their house.

Naturally another scientist proposed another truly awful acronym,
SNATIATION, which is a combination of "sneeze" and "satiation" and an
acronym for "Sneezing Noncontrollably at a Time of Indulgence of the
Appetite -- a Trait Inherited and Ordained to Be Named."
But even if it's clear when some people have this sneezing reflex, why
they do remains a mystery..."

Of course, the article continues to come around to talk about genetics.

There is also an allergic type of asthma that is also genetic:

"...Asthma can be one of the many types of allergic reaction. The US
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that asthma
affects 14 to 15 million Americans each year, including almost 5
million children. ?Asthma can occur as a result of an allergic
reaction to something in a person?s environment ? a dog or cat, mites,
ragweed, etc. ? or can be associated with a respiratory infection,?
Dr. Fink says. ?And some asthma develops from reactions to an
irritant, as in chemicals in occupational settings.? The allergic type
of asthmatic reaction has a genetic basis, Dr. Fink explains, but
asthma itself does not seem to be inherited..."

It could be genetic related allergies:

"...There's a genetic component to allergies -- if one or both of your
parents had allergies chances are you will to, though you may not be
allergic to the same substances. A combination of your genetic makeup
and your exposure to allergens determines your reactions..."

And I'll leave you with this from the Boston Globe that seems to
confirm this thinking:

"...Depending on your genetic makeup, pollen from a particular kind of
tree, say a birch, may cause an immune reaction -- release of a type
of antibody called IgE. This antibody sits on the surface of mast
cells -- immune system cells that line the nose, throat,
gastrointestinal tract, and skin.

The next time this pollen enters your system, it combines with these
antibodies, causing the mast cells to release histamine and 44 other
chemicals that can trigger an allergic reaction. These chemicals make
blood vessels dilate and leak proteins into tissues, causing swelling
-- the stuffy noses of allergy sufferers -- or hives on the skin..."

So, it appears that yes, there are several ways your family's
propensity for sneezing could be genetically related.

Search Strategy:

sneezing +genetics

I trust my research has provided you with possibilties. If a link
above should fail to work or anything require further explanation or
research, please do post a Request for Clarification prior to rating
the answer and closing the question and I will be pleased to assist


tosop-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.00

Subject: Re: genetics
From: undone-ga on 22 Aug 2005 09:20 PDT
there may be an evolutionary advantage to sneezing in extreme light
conditions, sneezing forces the head down and away from the light
which may otherwise damage the eye.
Nowdays we know that looking at the sun is bad for the eyes but
perhaps our ancestors were not as well informed!

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