Is It Possible To Sneeze With Your Eyes Open?

Photo: Getty Images / LaylaBird
I don’t know who originally said this, but there’s an ongoing joke on Twitter where someone asks another person if they're getting enough sleep, and the person responds, “sometimes when I sneeze, I close my eyes.” It’s all too relatable, I can tell you that.

But then—especially when your allergies are popping up often—you just have to wonder: Is it even possible to sneeze with your eyes open? People have done it before on YouTube (or at least faked it quite convincingly). Some of the videos have even tens of thousands of views.

Long story short, yes, it’s possible—but it’s also difficult, according to Purvi Parikh, MD, who specializes in infectious disease allergens and immunology for adults and children. “Sneezing is an autonomic reflex that closes your eyes with it,” she says. “It is possible to keep [your] eyes open, but you would have to make an effort to do so.” (Autonomic reflexes are unconscious motor reflexes communicated from your organs and glands to your central nervous system. Some examples besides sneezing are breathing, swallowing, and sexual arousal.)

She explains that the fact that it's automatic is why most of us close our eyes during a sneeze, though there aren’t necessarily any dangers in trying to keep them open. “It’s not harmful, but again, [it] takes more effort to keep open than closed,” she says.

Trying to hold in a sneeze, however, can be harmful. It may cause ear damage, vertigo, ruptured blood vessels, and diaphragm injuries. As you can probably feel in your body, there’s a big pressure buildup that comes with a sneeze, and it needs to be let out.

Experts In This Article

There’s no definitive answer on why our bodies close our eyes while sneezing, but some experts think it could be to protect the eyes from any allergens or irritants from the sneeze (and anything else in your vicinity that’s causing problems). In other words, it’s probably a good idea to just let your body do its thing without trying to fight it. Your body will thank you, as will the people around you.

To stop sneezes from hitting you regularly, you can take over-the-counter allergy medicine (if it’s okay with your doc), pick up an air care device, and wash your body and your clothes consistently.

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