The Scary Reason You Should Never, Ever Hold in a Sneeze

Ever feel the urge to sneeze at the wrong time? Maybe you were in a crowded elevator, or maybe in the middle of an important phone call. Either way, you had a choice: bite the bullet and let it rip, or hold it in.

Holding it in can seem like the “polite” thing to do. After all, we’re taught that it’s gross and rude to sneeze all over other people, right? Medically speaking, however, holding in a sneeze is downright dangerous.

Case in point: a English man was recently sent to the hospital with some serious–and mysterious–symptoms. He’d been complaining of some pains and strange popping and crackling noises coming from his neck. He even had trouble swallowing and lost his voice. After doctors examined him and did some x-rays, they discovered he had pockets and bubbles of air trapped in his throat and chest.

Why? It was all because he held in a sneeze! See, sneezes are really powerful, moving air as fast as 150 miles an hour. Holding all that force in creates a lot of pressure with nowhere to go. And so it can actually rupture your inner throat and force air into your body, as it did in this man’s case.

There’s more. If you have a cold and hold in a sneeze, things can be even worse. No one wants to sneeze out a big wad of mucus and nasal discharge, but think about it: that’s your body’s way of getting rid off something that’s causing you harm. Hold it in, and all that nasty stuff can force its way into your sinuses or inner ears, and cause some bad infections.

What should you do, instead of holding it in? We still don’t want you sneezing on everyone around you, after all! The CDC recommends grabbing a tissue if you can, sneezing into it, and then throwing it away. Maybe you can even train your dog to fetch you a tissue when you start to “ah…ah…ah….” On that crowded elevator with no tissue? Sneeze into your sleeve or elbow if necessary.

At the risk of sometimes seeming mildly impolite, we’ll sneeze, say “excuse me,” and keep our throats from rupturing! Oh, and few myths can be dispelled: sneezing won’t cause a stroke, blow out a kidney, or make your eyeballs pop out of your head. So have no fear!

And let’s remember that sneezing can actually be funny, or even cute. I mean, is anything more adorable than the tiny sneeze of a kitten? Or what about a baby elephant scaring itself with its own sneeze? Or twin infants trying to copy their dad’s “ACHOO!”?

Do you have any secrets to (safely) stopping a sneeze? Funny stories about letting one go? Let us know!