OK, I don’t know about the rest of you people, but maybe it’s because I’ve had sinus problems all my life, or maybe it’s because I had nothing better to do. But both me & my sister are able to keep our eyes open while sneezing, without holding them open with our hands or anything other than our own eye muscles, and I can assure you neither of us have ever had eye problems or burst vessels in the eye. So that whole “It is impossible to hold one’s eyes open while sneezing” stuff is crap… just thought I’d let you know.
I forgot to add the URL to the column, here it is:
Sorry 'bout that.
It’s possible to do a lot things. As a lifelong allergy sufferer, I can stifle a sneeze - a do it so quietly people in the meeting don’t realized I was even close.
My ability to avoid a sneeze doesn’t prove that sneezing with eyes closed is not a reflexive action.
Quick-twitch actions can be somewhat tamed… I learned to avoid sneezing to keep quiet. Why did you and your sister decide to sneeze with your eyes open? Just out of curiosity?
Here’s my Pavlovian answer to the “photic sneeze reflex”. Now, I have the reflex in some mild form and actually finds it pretty amusing. And useful. You know the times when you really want to sneeze because you know you’re on the verge of sneezing and just can’t get it out. Well, that’s when you take use of the photic reflex and stare straight into a bright lamp at the office. And … PHEEEEW! (or Atjoooo! as we say in Sweden).
Now to my own little theory.
Ever notice how you bend your head backward when you’re about to sneeze big time? Well, obviously it’s because your body wants a lot of air for the sneeze itself. It just ain’t the same without a lot of air to sneeze with. Now think of this fact in an historic/evolutionary context.
You’re out there n the savannah, you’re about to sneeze, your head bobs back AND you stare straight into the zenith bright sun, you close your eyes and you sneeze.
What I’m saying is that the “Photic sneeze reflex” is a Pavlovian psyhco-somatic leftover effect from our days at the savannahs. Your body simply interprets “staring into bright light” (which you otherwise would never do since it’s painful) as an immediate predecessor for a sneeze and acts accordingly, with a sneeze, whether it’s necessary or not.
As simple as that:)
Just want to welcome you new posters, psychogrinch and Daniel to the Straight Dope Message Boards, glad to have you with us.
I just wanted to remark that this is very similar to what we say in English (or at least, in American). The usual way to write a sneeze here is “Achoo!”, which is pronounced almost identically with “Atjoooo” (at least, with the way I would pronounce “Atjoooo”). “Pheeeew” looks to me more like the sound a person makes when smelling something unpleasent.
Chronos, of course you’re right. Got’em mixed up.
Pheeew is a smelly thing.
The eyes close when sneezing to prevent eye infections. Not because your eyes will pop out, or blood vessels will burst.
And as you’ve demonstrated, reflexes can be un-learned, and muscles can be trained.
that’s all there’s to it
I’ve thrown up with my eyes open, no bloodshot eyes aftereffect. Don’t know what BellusSith had going on (see article).