Experts warn of life-threatening health risks of holding in a sneeze

You could be doing more harm than good by holding in a sneeze. Source: Flikr

The next time you’re thinking about holding in a sneeze out of politeness, think again. 

While it’s not always socially acceptable to splatter and cough everywhere, doctors are warning that holding your nose and closing your mouth when you need to sneeze could cause irreversible damage.

In a new report by BMJ Case, highlights the story of a young man who recently ruptured the back of his throat when he tried to stop a sneeze. The spur-of-the-moment decision left the unnamed patient in substantial pain and unable to talk or swallow properly. He was previously in good health and probably would have avoided injuring himself if he didn’t try to stop himself from sneezing.

While a spontaneous rupture of the back of the throat is uncommon, it can be caused by vomiting, heavy coughing, retching and other trauma. Medical professionals were initially shocked when they discovered that the 34-year-old had injured himself by holding in a sneeze.

The report suggests that the man had a “popping sensation” in his neck that became worse when he tried to hold in the sneeze. He later found it difficult to swallow and lost his voice.

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Read more: Experts reveal how healthy it is to hold in a fart

Doctors who examined the man could hear crackling and popping sounds known as crepitus. They discovered that the condition was not only in his neck but also as far down as his ribcage, indicating that air bubbles had formed deep in the man’s muscles and chest tissues.

The man was eventually admitted to hospital where he was fed through a tube and put on a strong course of antibiotics until his throat began to heal. He went on to spend a week in hospital, with doctors warning him not to obstruct his nostrils when sneezing again.

“Halting sneezing via blocking [the] nostrils and mouth is a dangerous manoeuvre, and should be avoided,” the authors of the article said. “It may lead to numerous complications, such as pseudomediastinum [air trapped in the chest between both lungs], perforation of the tympanic membrane [perforated eardrum], and even rupture of a cerebral aneurysm [ballooning blood vessel in the brain].”

In addition, holding in a sneeze has the potential to rupture blood vessels in your eyes, cause inner-ear injuries and even cause vertigo or hearing loss.

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Instead, it’s always best to let out a sneeze, given it is your body’s natural reflex action.

What do you think of this story? Have you ever injured yourself by holding in a sneeze?

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