If you’re the type of person who prefers to contain your sneeze by holding your mouth and nostrils closed, you might want to reconsider. No doubt the act can be painful in the moment, but doctors writing in the BMJ Case Reports journal recently warned that serious damage can occur as a result.
One 34-year-old man who held in his sneeze ruptured the back of his throat, making it incredibly painful for him to swallow and left him practically unable to speak. According to Science Daily, when ER doctors examined him, “they heard popping and crackling sounds (crepitus), which extended from his neck all the way down to his ribcage — a sure sign that air bubbles had found their way into the deep tissue and muscles of the chest.” Because of the severity of the situation, he was admitted to the hospital for a full seven days, where he was given IV antibiotics and fed through a tube until his swelling and pain were reduced.
The risky practice of holding in a sneeze can cause “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],” according to the authors of the report.
So the next time you feel a tickle in your nose, reach for a tissue and just let it all out.