Here’s why you should never hold in a sneeze
Sure, they can be annoying and happen at inconvenient times, but sneezes are important. They can also be dangerous.
They’re your body’s way of expelling air to remove an irritant within the nostrils. The same stimulant that may cause one individual’s nervous system to trigger a sneeze may not affect another.
Recent reports out of the journal BMJ Case Reports say a 34-year-old man recently ruptured his throat holding in a sneeze. After pinching his nose closed while holding his mouth shut in an attempt to keep the sneeze at bay, the man experienced severe pain in his neck and struggled to swallow or speak.
A trip to the emergency department confirmed a diagnosis of Boerhaave’s syndrome.
“The condition can be described as a small tear in the upper esophagus,” says Dr. Gruber. “It can occur with violent coughing, vomiting or (as in this case) sneezing.”
Dr. Gruber says this is not that rare of a condition. “I see this at least once a year.”
Upon the patient’s arrival at the emergency department, reports say the clinicians noted “crepitus (popping and crackling sounds under the skin because of air in the tissue)…in both sides of the anterior neck extending down to the sternum.”
Dr. Gruber says the necks of patients with Boerhaave’s syndrome feel like bubble wrap.
Fortunately, the condition is self-limited, meaning it typically resolves on its own with no long-term consequences. Dr. Gruber says no treatment is usually needed.
The patient featured in BMJ was hospitalized for a week, fed through a tube and received intravenous antibiotics while he healed.
So the next time you feel a sneeze coming, remember: don’t hold it in. But do cover your sneeze!
About the Author
Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs manager at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks and playing with her dog, Bear and cats, Demi and Elle.