General Question

Ansible1's avatar

Why is it impossible to keep your eyes open when you sneeze?

Asked by Ansible1 (4824points) July 1st, 2009

I usually sneeze in waves of 2 or 3, never just once. This makes me very uncomfortable when i’m driving for obvious reasons. Anybody know?

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10 Answers

marinelife's avatar

From the Boston Globe:

“Actually, no one really knows.

’‘It is unclear, but scientists theorize that we close our eyes to protect them. We may be protecting our eyes from microorganisms and particles from our sneezes,” said Dr. Bonnie Henderson, director of comprehensive ophthalmology at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. But it could also be simply because a sneeze is a kind of bodywide reflex in which a lot of muscles contract, not just in the nose and throat but also those in the diaphragm, the abdomen, thighs, back, even sphincters (which is why some people with stress incontinence may urinate slightly when they sneeze).”

sap82's avatar

The myth busteres busted it. You can.

Fyrius's avatar

I’m not sure, but I think the pressure you build up in a sneeze can actually partially escape via the eyes, through the chasms between the eyes and the eyelids. I think I’ve experienced something like that. (It’s not very harmful, but quite awkward.)
Closing your eyes would prevent this. I could imagine this to put less stress on the eyes, and thus being better for them in the long run.
Don’t ask me how it works. I’m not even sure if it does.

Grisaille's avatar

As an aside, how incredibly sucky is it when you sneeze and fart at the same time?

I feel like I’m about to asplode.

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

@Grisaille Sucky? What better way to conceal a fart than with a sneeze? All you need to avoid is sneezing and shitting your pants.

Grisaille's avatar

@jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities I don’t know what planet you hail from, but it’s unbelievably painful. All that wind escaping your body at such a violent speed is no good. No good at all :[

Ivan's avatar

Why can’t you plug your nose and hum at the same time? It’s just a product of the geometry of our heads.

Fyrius's avatar

@Ivan
I can do that.
Until my mouth is filled with the air I press from my lungs in order to hum. Then I need to let it flow back before I can do it again.

Anyway, saying it’s just a product of the geometry of our heads kind of avoids answering the question. The actual answer would be that you hum by making air pass through your vocal cords, and that air needs to go somewhere.

Kenyan's avatar

@sap82. That was a funny episode

Ansible1's avatar

How did they bust it? I didn’t see that one

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