Cold season is quickly approaching and many students here at PSU have already got sick. I was sick this past week, and one of the many symptoms I continued to suffer from was sneezing. Sneezing is such a weird function and it’s often provoked thought among my friends and I. Getting over my cold the other day, I noticed a debate on my Twitter timeline of whether it is possible to sneeze with your eyes open. Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard or seen this conversation take place. Once, I even tested the theory myself while I was driving on the highway. My nose was testing me, and I was afraid a single sneeze would force my eyes close for a split second, I’d cause a major explosion from a five car crash, and the whole interstate would get shut down. Despite my irrational fears, there has to be some type of reasoning behind our eyes closing every time we sneeze.
I was successful in my attempt at keeping my eyes open while sneezing because, according to discovery.com, it is simply a reflex. In the same way I can suppress a natural reaction to blink after a certain amount of time, I can keep my eyes open during a sneeze. In researching, such as Tom Ulrich’s article, I’ve learned there is no known mechanism for why our eyes close when we sneeze. This dilemma is one that has contributed to my general disdain for science; there is no exact answer.
Of, course many people have created theories about the phenomenon. Meghan Holohan wrote on chatter of our bodies closing our eyes to keep all the germs we emit from a sneeze from entering our eyes, but that is only a theory. It makes sense for the most part, but my only question is how the germs could be harmful to you if they came from you in the first place? Could you infect yourself? Because of a lack of ethical integrity, I doubt this experiment could ever occur, but it would be interesting to have a group of people sneeze with their eyes open for a specific period of time and compare their sickness rate with another group of people continuing to close their eyes when they sneeze. The evidence would tell whether there might actually be a correlation between closing your eyes when you sneeze and getting sick. Protecting ourselves from germs may be one reason we close our eyes when sneezing.
I have never heard of this until now, but apparently a lot of people say eyelids keep your eyes from popping out of your head. That is silly and I highly doubt that is legitimate reasoning, plus there is biological evidence to combat that claim. Basically, your eyelids don’t have enough strength and also there is nothing behind your eyes to actually push them out, according to Tom Ulrich. But, science is back at it again without an exact answer because it has happened before. Megan Holohan wrote about a piece of writing from 1882 that claims a woman suffered from severe sneezing and her eye just couldn’t take it, so it popped. It doesn’t say whether her eyes were open or closed, but this makes me want to keep my eyes closed just in case. I am all for avoiding crashes and retaining my eyeballs thank you very much.
Picture from youtube.com