We’ve all been there. You’re in the office or on the bus, and you feel a big sneeze coming on.
You don’t want to make a scene, but you also know it’s not going to go away by itself. Some people will let out their sneeze loud and proud, while others will try and stifle it.
Of course, everyone wants to limit the spread of germs, especially around flu season. But as one man in England will tell you, sometimes it’s worth the risk.
The unnamed 34-year-old male was featured BMJ Case Reports journal when he tried to hold in a sneeze, and failed miserably. The “previously fit and well” patient felt a powerful sneeze coming on, so he tried to stop it by “pinching the nose and holding his mouth closed.”
Soon after the stifling attempt, the man noticed a “change of voice.” He also realized his neck was starting to swell, and when he tried to move it, there was a popping sound and crackling sensation. He went to the emergency room, where X-rays revealed the man had ruptured his throat.
When he held in the sneeze, the air that usually would blast out his mouth instead blasted down his throat, sending “streaks of air” into the tissue of his neck. The man was in the hospital for a week before getting released, which is when doctors told him to “avoid obstructing both nostrils when sneezing.”
This has prompted professionals to speak out against holding in sneezes, even if it means disrupting an otherwise quiet space.
“It’s powerful,” allergist Eli Meltzer told NPR. “We actually blow out the sneeze at 40 mph. The discharge can go 20 feet. And it’s said that 40,000 droplets can come out when you spritz with the mouth and the nose when you sneeze. Halting sneeze via blocking nostrils and mouth is a dangerous manoeuvre and should be avoided.”