Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve really needed to sneeze, but you stop yourself?
Perhaps you’ve been on a bus and felt your nostrils tingling, but done everything in your power to stop yourself from splattering everywhere. You may have just filled your mouth with food and want to avoid spraying your loved one with food.
Or maybe you’ve just sneezed so many times in a row that you stop yourself so you don’t draw attention to yourself in public.
While you may think you’re being polite, you could actually be causing irreversible damage to yourself.
According to Nine Coach, holding in a sneeze could be doing more damage than you would think.
If you’re someone who already lives with a number of health problems, it could be particularly harmful.
Professor of rhinology at the University of New South Wales and Macquarie University Richard Harvey explained that a sneeze is a natural body reaction and that people shouldn’t fight it.
“My first question is – why would you want to [hold in a sneeze]? I understand in some social situations it’s impolite, but a sneeze is a reflex action that’s a protective mechanism, much like a cough,” he explained to Nine Coach.
“For a few people with certain underlying risk factors, it can potentially be harmful to hold in a sneeze.”
And, if you thought it was impossible for your brain to explode by holding in a sneeze, you’d be wrong.
Professor Harvey continued: “There are some stories of a sneeze preceding an aneurysm and burst blood vessels, but this isn’t the sneeze’s fault in that it’s likely the patients had underlying risk factors and the sneeze was simply an extra bit of strain that set them off.”
He explained that preventing a sneeze can trigger a vagal response, resulting in a drop in heart rate.
When this happens, a held-in sneeze creates an unexpected strain on the body and that’s where the health risks come in to play.
Live Science added that holding in a sneeze also had the potential to cause an array of other problems.
These include injury to the diaphragm, causing blood vessels in your eyes to rupture and the potential to cause inner ear injuries that could result in hearing loss or vertigo.
“The risk of injury is low but you might just be the unlucky one,” head and neck surgeon and assistant professor of otolaryngology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine Alan Wild explained to Live Science.
“Some people also are concerned that stifling the sneeze is just a temporary outcome that whatever provoked the sneeze is still present and will cause another sneeze shortly.”