Science Questions

Can you keep your eyes open when you sneeze?

Sun, 18th May 2008

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Urvashi Iyer, USA asked:

Can you keep your eyes open when you sneeze and if you do, will they pop out?


Chris: Iíve kept my eyes open in the name of objective research, whilst sneezing, to see what would happen. I can categorically say I still have my eyes, I can still see so I donít believe the idea that they pop out.

Helen: I donít know. Iíve tried and failed to keep my eyes open. I just canít do it. How do you do manage?

Chris: I just forced myself. I was driving and I didnít want to shut my eyes so I couldnít see.  I forced them to stay open and I still have my eyes.  I donít know where this myth comes from but the fact is that the only connection between the nose cavity and they eye is in your tear duct which runs from the edge of your nose up to the middle part inner surface of your eyelids.  If you look at your lower eyelid, right where it meets the edge of your nose youíll see a little black dot.  Thatís the plughole through which tears drain.

I think the reason we close our eyes when we sneeze is probably because you do get quite a big build-up of pressure in the nose.  It will cause a sort of reflux of fluid back up the tear duct and it will squirt your tears back into your eyes.  If you screw your eye up you squeeze that duct closed and it does stop some of the tear from squirting back into your eyes.  Thatís why people say blow your nose if you have something in your eye because it forces some of the tears back up into your eye.  It means that there are more tears in the eye for a short while.  This helps to wash out everything.  I donít believe sneezing makes your eyes pop out.


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