Sneezing Safely

Blocking your sinuses may lead to serious medical complications


Caroline Christensen

Although it is not recommended to hold in a sneeze, it is still important to cover your mouth and nose as mucus from a sneeze can travel up to 200 feet.

Caroline Christensen, Staff Writer

Last year, a 34 year old man from England was rushed to the hospital with a ruptured throat because he tried to extinguish a sneeze. He was unable to talk, and his neck was swollen making it near impossible to swallow. The doctors scanned him, and found he had air bubbles deep in the tissue of his muscles and chest. This strange diagnosis was a result of a sudden increase of pharyngeal pressure in the sinuses when the man blocked his nose and mouth. The man ended up spending seven days in the hospital being fed from a tube and pumped full of antibiotics until the swelling in his neck ceased.

Although this case is extreme, BMJ Case Reports warn that,“Halting sneezing via blocking [the] nostrils and mouth is a dangerous maneuver, and should be avoided.”

They also say that blocking your sinuses might result in, “your perforate tympanic membrane rupturing” or , “a rupture of a cerebral aneurysm.” In other words, forcing air up the Eustachian tubes in your ears could result in a ruptured eardrum, and it could weaken a blood vessel in the brain, causing it to rupture.

Sneezes can be so powerful, that depending on lung capacity, the force of a sneeze can be up to 100 miles an hour. So it is no wonder serious injury can occur if that sneeze is stifled an the air has no where to go.

While it is important to remember that risk of serious injury is low, but if you feel a sneeze coming on, it is best to just to let it go. (But preferably into your elbow).