Why do eyes close when sneezing?

Sneezing is a natural phenomenon that occurs every now and then. What people do not know and have wondered about for years is why our eyes close when sneezing. In this article, we discover the science behind it and why it takes place.

You might have observed that some people close their eyes while sneezing, whereas others don’t. So, if there is no concern about our eyes popping out, then why do they shut? A lot of people used to think that the eyes automatically shut to keep the germs and bacteria out of the eyes; however, that is not the case. While sneezing, the germs and bacteria are projected away from the face and not towards it. 

Sneezing is basically a defensive act by the body to kick out the germs and bacteria, which could otherwise prove harmful. While sneezing expels foreign particles, it also orders contractions of certain muscles. 

For instance, when stimulated, the brain’s stem sneezing center orders contractions of the muscles from the esophagus to the sphincter. This includes the muscles controlling the eyelids. In some cases, sneezers will often shed tears. People could try sneezing with their eyes open, but it would be hard, and what purpose would it serve? 

People who sneeze with their eyes open are often associated with weak eye muscles. Prior to a sneeze taking place, several muscles are contracted, and the sneeze is more like an explosion taking place. The germs and bacteria are released at a speed of more than 100km’h/. Therefore, it is evident that your eyelids will close as well. 

Medically referred to as sternutation, sneezing is a response to something that is tickling or irritating inside your nose. It means that there is something inside your nasal passages that is irritating them. Therefore, in order to prevent them from reaching your lungs and throat, sneezing occurs, expelling around 100,000 germs. Moreover, there are several reasons behind sneezing. It could be dust, cold and flu, dry air, and certain spices such as pepper, cumin, and coriander. People who are allergic to certain things will also sneeze regularly. 

Furthermore, certain people have reported sneezing while being exposed to bright light as well. This is known as the ACHOO syndrome. In addition to that, this syndrome affects around 18 to 35 percent of the population. It is highly likely that you will sneeze while plucking your eyebrows. This is because when you pluck an eyebrow hair, it will irritate the nerve endings located in your face. 

An important thing that comes to mind while discussing sneezing is that some people try to hold it in. It should be mentioned that holding a sneeze is not a good idea at all. As already mentioned, it is an explosion taking place, and you wouldn’t want to stop it. If you do, you might end up rupturing the blood vessels in your eyes, hearing loss due to middle and inner ear damage and ruptured or weakened blood vessels in your brain. 

Then again, the reason it is possible that damage may occur is due to the fact that all of these muscles are involved when a sneeze is about to take place. The pressure and force of the action are such that any obstruction will ricochet the effect and put the muscles and nerves under extreme stress.

Concluding, a sneeze arises to eject out bacteria, virus or some possibly allergic foreign substance. It’s kind of an explosion that throws out the air from our lungs at maximum speed of 160 kilometers. All the muscles of chest, neck and face have to contract to create this explosion. These include the muscles attached to eyelids as well. That’s the reason eyes can not be kept open while sneezing. This a reflex action, so however hard one tries one can’t sneeze with eyes open.

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