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Can you sneeze with your eyes open?

May 12, 2006


I always used to believe that if I kept your eyes open when I sneezed, my eyeballs would be propelled out of my head with the 100mph force of the sneeze and be lost forever. I, in fact, really had nothing to worry about as firstly, shutting your eyes when you sneeze is a reflex action. This means that your brain is hardwired to do it without you even having to think about it- the same way that you will remove your hand from a hot stove as soon as you touch it. We can bypasses the conscious bits of our brain and tell the muscles what to do immediately if we need to act quickly.

Now some people don’t possess the reflex that makes you shut your eyes when sneezing and can sneeze with their eyes open- they still have eyeballs so is there really any reason for this reflex? The answer to that is probably not. So even if I could manage to hold my eyes open when I sneeze, they would stay put. The eyes are really well attached to your head via muscles and the optic nerve (Some strange people can make their eyes bulge out of their head which, although looking odd, doesn’t lead to their eyeballs falling out onto the floor and serves to prove how well attached they really are). So the eyelid plays very little part in holding your eyes in when you sneeze.

So why do we still do it? The thing is, no one really nose (he he). Some people have said it is to stop nose gunk from flying into our eyes and giving us an infection. However, the eyes have really good defences against germs so this probably isn’t the case. Maybe it is because we tense lots of our face muscles before we sneeze and the eye muscles are tensed as a byproduct. Or it could have no reason. The eyes and nose nerves are intertwined and stimulation of one can lead to a response from the others. This ‘cross-wiring’ is what happens when some people sneeze when looking at bright lights.

Did you know: Apparently the first sign of the plague used to be sneezing, so people would say ‘bless you’ if they heard you sneeze (you were probably going to die so they were trying to be nice). Sneezing these days doesn’t usually warn of something as horrid as the plague but we still say ‘bless you’ anyway.

Other sneezing stuff: Why do we sneeze? and What causes sneezing fits?

(Question submitted by Gaby. If you’d like to ask something email me on kat at

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Dino$ permalink
    May 12, 2006 9:53 pm

    i wondered abt the same thing and used to always try to sneeze wa 3anay maftoo7a.. not a pretty sight lol

    so thanks for the info… sneeze 2ad ma bidak.. just stay away from me and my food ! i hate how some ppl sneeze and dont cover their mouth.. and usually there is food around… ye3


  2. Dionte permalink
    May 26, 2006 3:43 am

    in french class the other day i sneezed with my eyes open and just a few minutes ago i told my girlfriend she told me i was crazy and kept tellin me facts about sneezing that i alreayd knew which lead to me want to try this and i did not fail i actually did it and some people were watching me

  3. Dionte permalink
    May 26, 2006 3:45 am

    next time im gonna video tape it..because i think is balony if it is labeled as “impossible”

  4. May 26, 2006 12:07 pm

    Congratulations 😀

    You should tape it and post it some where, It is a seen that I should watch.

  5. Bailey permalink
    December 5, 2006 8:59 am

    I heard that if you sneeze with your eyes open you could die~

  6. December 14, 2006 3:52 pm

    i sneeze with my eyes open all the time, i’m one of the very few pple born with that abilty, and my eyes have never popped out-lol- i don’t think my sneeze even reaches 100mph, b/c i sneeze EXACTLY like a cat…to think about it, i don’t think i’ve ever sneeze with my eyes closed

  7. charlie permalink
    December 10, 2008 1:05 am

    well i can sneeze with my eyes open you just need to concentrate a little bit, ive done it plenty of times and as far as im aware i still have two eyeballs

  8. December 11, 2008 7:15 am


  9. Sloop permalink
    April 10, 2009 7:13 am

    I DID IT TODAY!! I SWEAR TO GOD!! I am really sick with a bad cold, so I decided to try and sneeze with my eyes open and I did it! I sneezed and was like squinting and could still see. Is this a record? Am I the only person on earth that has ever done this?

  10. cheapbucko45 permalink
    May 6, 2009 1:36 am

    LOL i tried it, and I um couldnt do it…i was scared xD

  11. June 29, 2009 1:41 pm

    Thanks for this excellent tidbit of information on sneezing. It’s a good thing that the eyes are attached so, when we sneeze, they stay in place.

    Contrast this to what happens when a person yawns: When a person yawns, a space-time rift occurs (spatio-temporal for you Quantum Physicists out there), which opens a temporary Black Hole (or Space Boojum, as found in the late, great author Kilgore Trout’s sci-fi classic: ‘Venus on the Half-Shell’), which literally sucks in the entire solar system–planets, asteroids, and all (but not the system’s star, that seems to be immune), never to be seen again.

    This is the real reason we haven’t found intelligent life on other planets yet: Earth People Yawning! Covering one’s mouth when one yawns counteracts this effect, so this custom is more than just being polite by not showing one’s gaping maw in public; it actually serves to protect unsuspecting solar systems from permanent extinction!

    Therefore, suffice it to say, sneezing with your eyes open is harmless compared to yawning without covering your mouth.

  12. Katie permalink
    January 5, 2010 1:41 pm

    I’d always been told the reason people said “bless you” when someone sneezed was because of a superstition that sneezing was your soul escaping through your mouth for a second, and that gasping breath after the sneeze sucked it back in, but people said “bless you” in case the soul didn’t return.

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