Often when we sneeze – especially in public situations – we do our best to contain the sneeze as much as possible. While some of the more common choreography is to direct the sneeze into your upper arm or elbow, sometimes people will attempt to pinch their nose shut while sneezing with their mouth closed. Now, doctors say that the latter strategy could put you in the hospital.
In the journal BMJ Case Reports, doctors describe the case study of a 34-year-old man who ruptured the back of his throat while using this sneezing technique. Spontaneous rupture of the back of the throat is a rare injury, and is usually caused by trauma, vomiting, retching, or heavy coughing. The doctors were surprised to see a sneeze cause this condition, which left the young man in significant pain and barely able to speak or swallow.
After he tried to contain a forceful sneeze by pinching his nose and clamping his mouth shut, the patient found that he had developed a popping sensation in his neck. Shortly after, he found it very painful to swallow and lost his voice. “Halting sneezing via blocking [the] nostrils and mouth is a dangerous maneuver, and should be avoided,” caution the authors.
Upon examination, the doctors hear popping and crackling sounds – known as crepitus – extending from his neck all the way down to his ribcage. This is a sign that air bubbles had found their way into the deep tissue and muscles of the chest. This theory was confirmed using a computed tomography scan.
Due to the risk of serious complications, the patient was admitted to a hospital, where he was fed through a tube and given IV antibiotics until the swelling and pain had subsided. Seven days later, his condition had improved enough to be discharged.
The next time you feel a sneeze coming on, be sure to leave your nose un-pinched, since keeping this force inside could result in perforating your eardrum or even rupture of a cerebral aneurysm – none of which are worth being overly polite with your sneeze.