Here’s why you should never hold in a sneeze

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’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.

But no matter the cause, Dr. Benjamin Gruber, an otolaryngologist with Advocate Medical Group, says no one should ever hold in a sneeze.

One report in the the journal BMJ Case Reports say a 34-year-old man 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. He was diagnosed with 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,” he says.

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.

So the next time you feel a sneeze coming, remember: don’t hold it in. But do cover your sneeze.

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator 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.