Why holding in a sneeze can be dangerous


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – You’ve started to feel that unmistakable tingle you get in your sinuses and you know you’re about to sneeze. So, do you try to hold it in or just let it go?

Well, it turns out sneezing the wrong way can send you to the emergency room.

According to The British Medical Journal, a 34-year-old man in England recently clenched his jaws, held his nostrils and ruptured his throat!

Ear Nose and Throat specialist, Dr. Lance Cohen, an otolaryngologist with BayCare says don’t hold back-all that air pressure has to go somewhere!

“Someone ended up rupturing their throat as a result of trying to stifle their sneeze. Having done this 25 years, I haven’t seen that complication of a sneeze but if you generate a lot of pressure and that air is traveling up through your wind pipe and in to your pharynx and eventually has to come out,” said Dr. Cohen.

Holding in a big one also puts your eardrums at risk.

“You can rupture your ear drum because if you close off your mouth and you close off your nose, again, the force of that pressure of that material or that air coming up there can make its way in to the Eustachian tube,” Dr. Cohen continued.

A stifled sneeze can also break a bone!

“There’s a very thin muscle that separates the ethmoid sinus which is the upper part of the nose from your orbit, or your eyeball. It’s called the lamina papyracea. Papyracea means paper thin and if you suppress a sneeze that’s also a weak link and then the air can rupture that bone or fracture it, which later can result in air in your eyelids,” said Dr. Cohen.

The doctor’s advice is simple: “I would recommend that you keep your mouth open. You don’t suppress it. Let it go. Preferably use a tissue or a handkerchief. But the short version is the pressure has got to go somewhere. You feel better when you let it go too,” he suggests.

And believe it or not, Dr. Cohen says some of his patients have asked if it’s true you can blow out your eyeballs if you keep your nose and mouth closed. He says it’s not true and has never seen any evidence of that happening.

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