Ah, ah, ah….choo! Sneezing is a part of life. And of course you should cover your mouth and your nose when you sneeze, but stifling it might not only be a bad idea – it could actually be dangerous according to a new study released in BMJ Case Reports.
If you’ve ever tried to stifle a sneeze by pinching your nose and closing your mouth, doctors are offering a cautionary tale for why you should stop. After a man in the U.K. ruptured the back of his throat during the maneuver, he was left unable to swallow and had difficulty speaking for days.
He described a “popping sensation” in his neck and said the swelling began “after he tried to halt a sneeze by pinching the nose and holding his mouth closed,” the doctors write.
They discovered air bubbles in his neck and chest and determined that the stifled sneeze had torn a hole in the lower part of his throat.
According to National Public Radio (NPR), “by trying to suppress the full force of his sneeze the man literally ruptured his throat. The air that sneeze would have blasted forth instead made its way into his soft tissue as tiny bubbles. But don’t panic: After at least a week or so of recovery the man was well enough to leave the hospital — with “advice to avoid obstructing both nostrils while sneezing.”
Here’s an interesting note from the Huffington Post regarding the speed of our sneezes.
Anthony Aymat, a consultant at University Hospital Lewisham in London, told Time magazine that “the safest thing to do, although it’s not socially acceptable, is just to sneeze loud” and catch the germ cloud in a tissue.
“When you sneeze, air comes out of you at about 150 miles per hour,” said Aymat, who was not involved in the reported 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.”
The doctors wrote up their case hoping to prevent future injuries in others: “halting sneezing via blocking [the] nostrils and mouth is a dangerous manoeuvre, and should be avoided,” they cautioned.
And it’s not just the throat that’s at risk. Ear drums can be perforated, the authors explained. Even more dangerous, there could be a rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. So if you have to sneeze, just let it out — and aim for the nook of your elbow if you can.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this new report, and whether you are someone who tries to stifle a sneeze or lets it go! Driving interesting conversations around the health stories making headlines is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!