With cold and flu season raging on through January and February, there’s probably going to be a sneeze at some point in your future. Are you the kind of person who doesn’t like sneezing in public and tends to stifle it? (Or is that just me?) Well as it turns out, the practice of being polite by holding in that sneeze could be dangerous.
In a new case study published by the British Medical Journal, a 34-year-old healthy male suffered severe injuries after stifling a sneeze. A sneeze!
By pinching his nose and closing his mouth to quiet his sneeze, the man actually ruptured his throat, which led to swelling in his neck and difficulty with swallowing and speaking. Doctors even found air bubbles in his neck and chest, which led to a seven-day stay in the hospital where he was given antibiotics and food through a tube so the rupture could heal properly. Thankfully, the man made a full recovery, but can you imagine telling your co-workers you had a to miss a week of work because of a sneeze!?
According to Anthony Amyat, a consultant at the University Hospital Lewisham in London, “When you sneeze, air comes out of you at about 150 miles per hour. If you retain all that pressure, it could do a lot of damage and you could end up like the Michelin Man with air trapped in your body.” And as we’ve learned today, you could end up in the hospital from it.
Of course, there will come a time when you need to sneeze in public or when driving, and you might not be able to grab a tissue to cover your mouth and nose. Thankfully, there’s method you can try that’s commonly believed to help stop a sneeze. When you feel one coming on, simply tickle the roof of your mouth with your tongue. This action can confuse your brain, which will essentially prevent you from sneezing. Breathing through your mouth or placing a finger under your nose can also help to stop a sneeze. Just don’t forget, if these measures don’t work for you, let the sneeze out!
So, why do we sneeze? It’s actually a way to protect your body and immune system, and is a natural defense mechanism that moves foreign particles away from your body, where they are unable to pose a threat to your airways. In other words, if you must sneeze, let it out. It’s a great way to clean out your airways and help prevent sickness.
If you really want to be polite, just try to aim it at a tissue and always wash your hands afterwards. It’s better to be safe than sorry, right?