Doctors have warned people not to suppress their sneeze on account of a very unusual case of a man who ruptured the back of his throat while trying to hold in his sneeze. If you are ever tempted to let it out, don’t be afraid so because holding in your sneeze can be a legit pain in your neck.
Holding your sneeze can rupture your throat and cause serious complications. (Source: Shutterstock)
The 34-year-old unnamed Britain learned his lesson the hard way but now we can use his unfortunate experience to educate ourselves over the enormity of the issue that is holding back on something as trivial as a sneeze.
In a case study published in the journal BMJ Case Reports, doctors expressed initial confusion over the man’s case. The man who had previously been in top condition complained of swallowing difficulties and “a popping sensation” in his swollen neck. He had pinched his nose and kept his mouth closed during a forced sneeze. He didn’t notice the pain initially but after a couple of hours, he felt intense pain in his throat and neck. When his neck started to swell and his voice changed, he decided to visit the hospital.
You let out air at 150 miles per hour when you sneeze. (Source: Shutterstock)
“This 34-year-old chap said he was always trying to hold his sneeze because he thinks it is very unhygienic to sneeze into the atmosphere or into someone’s face. That means he’s been holding his sneezes for the last 30 years or so, but this time it was different,” case report author Dr. Wanding Yang said. She works in the department of ear, nose, and throat at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.
“When you sneeze, air comes out of you at about 150 miles per hour,” said Dr. Anthony Aymat, director for ear, nose and throat services at London’s University Hospital Lewisham, who was not involved in the case.
“If you retain all that pressure, it could do a lot of damage and you could end up like the Michelin Man with air trapped in your body.”
When the doctors examined the patient, they heard popping and crackling down his ribcage, a sign that revealed that air bubbles had seeped into his chest. Worried that this could cause infections and other serious complications, they admitted him to the hospital and ran a few scans.
Holding in your sneeze is not good as it’s your body’s natural instinct to let out an irritant. (Source: Shutterstock)
The scans confirmed the problem. The tests showed actual streaks of air in the retropharyngeal region and extensive surgical emphysema in the neck anterior to the trachea. In simpler terms, the man actually managed to blow a hole in his throat by holding back his sneeze.
“Luckily, it was a very small perforation,” Yang said. “He didn’t need any operation.”
If someone ever tell me to stop sneezing I’m just gon assume they tellin me to kill myself and I’m running fades https://t.co/aR6MuCylmU
When you sneeze, your body is letting loose of something that causes it irritation. With a sneeze, a significant amount of air pressure builds up in the lungs and forces its way out through your nose and mouth. If you hold your sneeze back, the pressurized air would need somewhere to go. In such a case, it can cause significant damage and injure the tissues in your throat.
Dr. Zi Yang Jiang, a head and neck surgeon at University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, said he has seen around one or two cases arising from repressed sneezing, making this man’s case one of an exceedingly rare occurrence.
Jiang says it is unrealistic and crazy how holding back a sneeze can cause the kind of physical damage that usually results from trauma like a gunshot to the neck. Another problem that can arise from holding back your sneeze is a collapsed lung.
“The whole point of sneezing is to get something out of your bodies, like viruses and bacteria, so if you stop that, those may end up in the wrong part of the body,” he said. Jiang said in most cases, the excess air is later absorbed by the body.
“A sneeze is designed to expel foreign particles and irritants from your airway, particularly your nasal cavity, and is a protective reflex,” Jonathan Moss of the Charlotte Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat Associates previously told Business Insider. Moss, a doctor, said he tells his patients to simply “let it fly!”
Let your sneeze on to a tissue to avoid germ attack! (Source: Shutterstock)
The trick to sneezing the right way is to cover your sneeze. This can preferably be done with the help of a tissue or handkerchief. A sleeve or an elbow is a far better alternative to using your hands to cover the sneeze, which could spread the mucus coming out of your nose when you touch things. Regardless of how you do it, wash your hands in warm soapy water afterward to avoid catching anything.
The patient who suffered this unfortunate incident has now made a full recovery and has been advised to avoid plugging his nose while letting out a sneeze in the future.
“The safest thing to do — although it’s not socially acceptable — is just to sneeze loud,” Dr Anthony Aymat said.