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Sneezing with Eyes Open

AN EYE-OPENING SNEEZE FACT: CAN YOU SNEEZE WITH YOUR EYES OPEN?

Sneezing with your eyes open has often been associated with unpleasant consequences – including the myth that the power of a sneeze would be enough to pop your eyeballs straight out of their sockets. As a child, this seems plausible, explaining why your body seems to force your eyelids closed every time you feel a sneeze coming about.

But is it possible to sneeze with your eyes open? The short answer is yes - but doing so goes against your body's natural reflex to close its eyes during a sneeze.1

WHY DO YOU CLOSE YOUR EYES DURING A SNEEZE?

Closing your eyes is due to the interaction of nerves occurring during a sneeze. The act of sneezing is triggered from external airborne particles irritating the sensitive area inside your nose.2 The nerves connected to this nasal lining send a signal to the brain, causing the body to sneeze.2

This process causes the muscles in your stomach and throat to contract, sending mucus out of your nose in the form of a sneeze to get rid of irritants in your nasal cavities.2 The brain then sends a signal to your eyes, causing your body to have a natural reflex to close your eyes when this sneezing process is underway.2

IS IT POSSIBLE TO SNEEZE WITH YOUR EYES OPEN?

Yes, like any reflex, the urge to close your eyes during a sneeze can be suppressed. And while you should cover your nose and mouth to help shield others from the full power of your sneeze, there’s no need to worry about keeping your eyes closed. Your eyes have muscles holding them in place, and are not solely kept in your head by your eyelids.1

The next time you feel a sneeze coming, you can attempt to keep your eyes open - without worrying about losing your eyeballs!1

Sources:

1.       University of Illinois Undergraduate Library. Health Questions. http://web.library.uiuc.edu/qb/health.asp.  Accessed May 5, 2015.

2.       Washington Post. Anatomy of a Sneeze/Cough.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/health/interactives/cold/?sid=ST2008020401625. Accessed May 5, 2015.