Medical Mysteries, She Wrote
Have you ever wondered why it hurts when you hit your funny bone? Or why your eyes close when you sneeze? WebMD has the answers to these and other perpetually perplexing medical mysteries.
Let's get one thing straight: "It is very unlikely our eyes
will extrude or 'pop out' if we sneeze too forcefully," says Brian Smart,
MD, chairman of the Asthma and Allergy Center of the DuPage
Medical Group in Illinois.
Well, if the reason we close our eyes when we sneeze isn't to
keep them from popping out of our heads, then why bother?
"Similar to the reflex that occurs when your knee kicks
after it's hit with a medical hammer, or the way your hand pulls away from
something hot when you burn it, closing your eyes when you sneeze is a powerful
reflex," says Smart, who is also a spokesman for the American Academy of
Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. "You can try and force yourself to keep
your eyes open when you sneeze, but it's hard to do."
Another piece of folklore: We sneeze with our eyes closed to
keep the stuff we sneeze out from getting in our eyes. Survey says?
"It is also unlikely that the substances we sneeze will get
into our eyes, since the substances we sneeze travel some distance," says
Smart. "Incidentally, the fact that we sneeze a considerable distance leads
me to remind people to always cover their mouths when they sneeze. This will
help slow the spread of respiratory disease, and is simply good
Don't forget to say gesundheit.
Reading This Will Make You Yawn
Sometimes, even thinking about yawning will make you yawn. And
when the person next to you does it, forget about it -- you'll yawn, too. With
all this talk about yawning, in fact, you've probably already yawned.
"A yawn is an instinctive behavior: You don't have to learn
to do it, and yawns are even present before birth," says Robert Provine, a
professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland,
Is the myth that yawns are actually contagious true?
"When one person in a group yawns, over half of the people
in the group will yawn within five minutes, and the rest will at least be
tempted to yawn," says Provine, who has been researching yawning for more
than 20 years. "What is surprising is that virtually anything having to do
with yawning triggers a contagious reaction."
Provine explains that while yawning is highly contagious, so
are other human behaviors, like laughter, and this reaction is actually very
normal -- and ancient.
"When you see someone else yawn, you don't think to
yourself, 'Well, I'll yawn, too," says Provine. "It just happens --
it's instinctive, and it's a very primal aspect of human behavior that goes
back to ancient herd mentality."
Now that you know why yawns are contagious and why your funny
bone should actually be called a painful nerve, here are other medical