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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Solar Eclipses Can Damage Your Health

Watching a solar eclipse may be so stressful that it is bad for your health, British researchers report. So there might be a grain of truth in myths surrounding eclipses after all.

Omar Mian at Manchester University and Rubina Mian and Doug Thake at Coventry University were mocking tales of eclipses making people sick, or causing deformities in unborn children.

"Then I pointed out there was no evidence either way,'' Rubina Mian says.

Mian took her graduate students to a field in Briey, France, to watch the 1999 summer eclipse. By analyzing their blood samples with a luminometer, the researchers found that leukocyte activity increased by 8.7 percent during the eclipse. These white blood cells usually help our immune system, butif over stimulated, they can damage DNA by releasing free radicals.

Experiments after the eclipse showed that darkness, silence and temperature had no effect on leukocyte activity. But in other studies being prepared for publication Mian has found that stress can have a big effect.

"I know I was stressed,'' Mian says about the eclipse. "It was really quite overwhelming.''

And if it's stressful for her, Mian says it must be worse for those who don't understand what an eclipse is, or who believe legends about the phenomenon.