Sneezing with Bright Sunlight

Woman blowing her nose outside on fall day
Bright sunlight can make you sneeze.. Guido Mieth/Moment/Getty Images

I sneeze when I go outside on a sunny day. Am I allergic to sunlight?

No. Some people have the tendency to sneeze and have a runny nose when exposed to bright sunlight. This isn’t an allergy; rather, it’s a form of non-allergic rhinitis called a naso-ocular reflex. When exposed to bright light, the eyes water as a response to the light, which then causes the nose to run. Sneezing may occur as a result of the runny nose.

How do you know whether you’re having a naso-ocular reflex or outdoor allergies? It may be difficult to tell for sure, but the naso-ocular reflex should occur almost immediately after stepping outside. Outdoor allergies, due to pollen and mold, may occur after a few minutes of being outside, and will also cause symptoms of itchy nose and eyes. Allergies will get better with a wide variety of allergy medications; the naso-ocular reflex may get better with a variety of prescription nasal sprays and a good pair of sunglasses.


Diagnosis and Management of Rhinitis: Joint Task Force on Practice Parameters in Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 1998;81:463-518.

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