The Science Behind (#1) : Sneezes!



By Jack D

“ACHOO!” The student blurts. They’ve just sneezed. Simple right? Not really. People have may questions about sneezes, like:

  • Why do we sneeze?
  • What happens during a sneeze?
  • Can we sneeze with our eyes open?

Well, I’ll answer all of your questions in the first entry of “The Science Behind.”

Why do we sneeze?

For the first question, “why do we sneeze,” it depends on the situation. When you breathe cold air (according to, “Your nasal mucus dries up and can crack, which triggers the same response in the nerves in our nose as common irritants like dust.” That brings us to the next scenario. If dust, cleaning products, smoke, or other things or their smells get into your nose, you’ll sneeze. You also sneeze when you are sick because your body is trying to expel germs from your system.

What happens during a sneeze?

Now for the next question, “what happens during a sneeze?” Well, when one of the things on the previous list gets into your nose, your cilia (nose hairs) are irritated by it. Then, pressure builds up in your chest as your chest muscles compress your lungs, and your vocal cords close. Then you sneeze. Your vocal cords suddenly open again, air is driven up your respiratory tract and through your nose at a high speed. Your eyes shut and your diaphragm moves upward as your chest muscles contract, releasing air from your lungs. That air allows thousands of droplets to project from your nose and mouth as a way to get rid of the allergen or irritant. While sneezing helps get rid of unwanted particles from the body, it also can spread sickness through those thousands of particles ( 

Can we sneeze with our eyes open?

For the final question, “can we sneeze with our eyes open?” the answer is fairly simple. We can, but it’s not very easy. Why? Well, according to, closing your eyes during a sneeze is an autonomic reflex. An autonomic reflex is a motor action that your body makes in response to a stimulus. It doesn’t involve a conscious decision on your part to take that action, like breathing or blinking. So, while you CAN sneeze with your eyes open, it won’t be easy to override the reflex.

Thanks for reading this week’s edition of “The Science Behind.” I guess sneezing was kind of simple after all! The next edition will be released next Monday. Enjoy the rest of your day!

(Photo by Krzysztof Hepner on Unsplash)