HomeLifestyleHealth & FitnessHalting sneezing could be a dangerous manoeuvre - experts warn

Halting sneezing could be a dangerous manoeuvre – experts warn

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Doctors advise against pinching your nose while clamping your mouth together to contain a strong sneeze.

Sneezing in public places was once seen to be impolite. Even the tiniest achoo may now get people’s attention. So when the impulse strikes, should you simply…resist?

Sneezing is the body’s mechanism of removing irritants from the nose and throat, such as bacteria, pollen, or dust. According to the American Lung Association, it can be rather powerful, releasing tens of thousands of droplets from your nose at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. (However, some people have a weaker sneeze reflex, causing them to sneeze several times in a row to remove the irritant.)

Halting sneezing could be a dangerous manoeuvre - experts warn
Halting sneezing could be a dangerous manoeuvre – experts warn

It’s understandable that having that much disease-spreading potential makes you feel anxious. So, what’s the harm in attempting to keep those sneezes inside?

Holding in a sneeze, turns out, has certain severe consequences, some of which could be life-threatening. According to a review published in the American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy in May 2019, closing your airway during a sneeze can place up to 20 times more pressure on your airways than just letting it out.

In one case study, the back of a young man’s throat was ruptured during this maneuver, leaving him unable to speak or swallow and in excruciating pain.

The 34-year old’s symptoms initially startled the emergency room doctors, as spontaneous rupture of the back of the throat is uncommon and usually caused by trauma, vomiting, retching, or intense coughing.

The young man claimed that he had a popping sensation in his neck, which swelled up immediately after he tried to stifle a violent sneeze by pinching his nose and keeping his lips shut at the same time.

Why should you avoid blocking both nostrils when sneezing?

He found swallowing to be excruciatingly uncomfortable a short time later, and he nearly lost his voice.

When the doctors examined him, they detected popping and crackling sounds (crepitus) that extended from his neck to his ribs — a sure indicator that air bubbles had entered the deep tissue and muscles of the chest, which was confirmed by a computed tomography scan.

Because of the potential for significant repercussions, the guy was brought to the hospital and fed through a tube while receiving intravenous antibiotics until the swelling and agony reduced.

He was well enough to be discharged after seven days, with the instruction to avoid blocking both nostrils when sneezing in the future.

Here are some reasons why stopping your sternutation (medical jargon for sneeze) can be a terrible choice, as well as what you should do instead.

Withholding the force of your sneeze “you’re putting pressure on your diaphragm, the muscle in the chest that helps us breathe,” says Jason Abramowitz, an otolaryngologist with ENT and Allergy Associates in Oradell, New Jersey. “You might also experience pressure in the chest, in the ribs.”

He further adds: “Our nose and ears are connected by the eustachian tubes. If you hold in a sneeze, there would be increased pressure in the nose, which will flow to the ear through the eustachian tubes, which could lead to trauma in the eardrum.”

According to Cleveland Clinic, it can also lead to an ear infection.

Sneezes generate a lot of pressure, and holding it back could cause a capillary in the eyes, nose, or eardrum to explode.

“You might see a red spot on the eyeball or even have a small nosebleed,” adds Dr. Abramowitz.

What should you do instead

Dr. Abramowitz recommends letting your sneezes out rather than holding them in.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends covering your mouth and nose with a tissue to prevent your sneeze from turning into a super-spreader event. After that, throw away the tissue and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer.

What would happen if you hold in a sneeze?

If you don’t have access to a tissue, the next best thing is to sneeze into your elbow (and move away from others while you do so, if possible).

And if you absolutely have to hold in your sneeze? Try not to hold your nostrils too tightly.

“This will lead to higher pressure in the nose and increase discomfort,” adds Dr. Abramowitz.

“Halting sneezing via blocking [the] nostrils and mouth is a dangerous manoeuvre, and should be avoided,” warn the case study authors.

“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].”

Image Credit: Getty

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