Whenever I have the urge to sneeze in public, I try as much as possible to stifle the sneeze because I find it very embarrassing shouting “atish-ew!” and drawing attention to myself.
If you are like me who always stifle sneezes by pinching your nose and clamping your mouth shut when sneezing, you might want to change your technique for your health’s sake.
Doctors have warned against holding in a forceful sneeze, after a man ruptured the back of his throat doing so.
The unnamed 34-year-old was taken to the emergency room in excruciating pain and barely able to speak or swallow after he held his nose and closed his mouth in a failed bid to stifle a sneeze.
The man explained that he had developed a popping sensation in his neck which immediately swelled up after he tried to contain a forceful sneeze by pinching his nose and keeping his mouth shut at the same time.
When doctors examined him they heard crackling sounds which extended from his neck all the way down to his ribcage – a sign that air bubbles had found their way into the deep tissue and muscles of his chest.
They ordered an urgent Computerised Tomography (CT) scan, which confirmed that the back of his throat – called the pharynx – had ruptured.
Spontaneous rupture of the back of the throat is rare, and usually caused by trauma, or sometimes by vomiting, retching or heavy coughing, so the man’s symptoms initially surprised emergency care doctors.
Because of the risk of serious complications, the man was admitted to hospital, where he was fed via a tube and given intravenous antibiotics until the swelling and pain had subsided.
After seven days he was well enough to be discharged with the advice not to block his nostrils when sneezing in future.
Specialists from University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, wrote in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Case Reports that halting a sneeze via blocking nostrils and mouth is a dangerous manoeuvre and should be avoided, as it may lead to numerous complications such as pneumomediastinum [air trapped in the chest between the lungs], perforation of tympanic membrane [perforated eardrum] and even rupture of cerebral aneurysm [potentially fatal bursting blood vessels in the brain].
So when next you feel a sneeze building up, don’t try to stifle it by clamping your mouth and your nose shut. Sneeze into a tissue or handkerchief and dispose. If you haven’t any tissue or handkerchief, sneeze into your hands and wash up immediately after.