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Why Do I Close My Eyes When I Sneeze?

Why do I close my eyes when I sneeze?

Humans sneeze for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s because we are sick or are having an allergic reaction to plants or animals. Some people even have “reflective” sneezing brought on by looking in the direction of the sun or other strong lights. Some sneezes are loud, and some get messy, but just about everyone closes their eyes when they sneeze. Why? To help answer this, we turn to our friends at Mythbusters.

Sneezing is all about getting stuff that isn’t supposed to be in your nose out of there. This can be pollen, dander or too much mucus when you have a cold, and the air traveling out of your nose during a sneeze can reach a whopping 200 miles per hour! That’s pretty fast and is a good reason you should cover your nose when you sneeze.

You may have heard that closing your eyes when you sneeze happens to keep your eyes from popping out while just a few inches away air is moving at the speed of a racecar. This is not true. As the Mythbusters page on this subject tells us:

“Let's start with Anatomy 101: Your eyes are actually quite secure, and your eye sockets aren't connected to your nose at all. So, although a sneeze can erupt from your nose at an explosive 200 miles per hour, it can't transfer this pressure into your eye sockets to dethrone your eyeballs.”

So although a sneeze may seem violent, it doesn’t really put your eyes in danger because all of the action is happening in different places.

Yet, we still close our eyes, why? It has to do with our nervous system. When your brain send the message to your nose that “We need to clear this place out” and you sneeze, this action causes stimulation of the nerves in your head and along the way your eyes are involuntarily told to blink. So you can sneeze without closing your eyes, but you’ll be fighting against your natural urges, and it may not feel too good.

Looking for more Never Stop Asking "Why?" questions? Catch up on all of the past "Why's" on the blog!