When it comes to the body, there’s one golden rule to always remember: better out than in. One man should’ve remembered before he decided to test out holding in a sneeze. What did he learn from his experiment? If you value the state of your throat, don’t do it!
A rare case
Imagine the doctor’s confusion when this 34-year-old man walked into a Leicester hospital with a ruptured pharynx... after just holding in a sneeze. After successfully holding in the explosion of air, the man immediately felt a popping sensation in his neck which then began to quickly swell up. Soon thereafter, the man developed difficulties swallowing and even lost his voice, according to reports in BMJ Case Reports.
ENT specialists likened his situation to that of Boerhaave Syndrome, which brings about oesophagal tearing due to excessive vomiting. During the examination, doctors observed a cracking noise emanating from his throat and upon verification via x-ray found it was, in fact, the pharynx that was punctured, allowing air to be blown into the soft tissues of the throat.
Though this kind of case is very rare, it’s not the first time a sneeze provoking an injury has popped up in the news. One such case saw a 38-year-old man tear his larynx in a similar fashion, and another actually saw a man becoming temporarily paralysed post-sneeze. Diagnosis for the latter: two fractured vertebrae!
Sneezing: serious business
As silly as it sounds, sneezing is quite an explosive act. In a just a brief instant, our bodies are capable of projecting air at a speed of 4.5 m/s, or 10 mph. When the act of sneezing is held in like in the case of this man, the amount of pressure exerted can reach as high as 38 times higher than a normal sneeze: equivalent to a full-blown punch to the throat. It’s best to exercise caution when feeling a sneeze coming on.
The best method is to simply let the sneeze come out. In the case of germs, just make sure to sneeze into either your elbow or shoulder to minimize the chance of spreading. This way, you’re protecting yourself and those around you. Specialists at University Hospitals of Leicester concluded:
Halting sneezing via blocking (the) nostrils and mouth is a dangerous manoeuvre and should be avoided. It may lead to numerous complications, such as pneumomediastinum (air trapped in the chest between both lungs), perforation of the tympanic membrane (perforated eardrum), and even rupture of a cerebral aneurysm (ballooning blood vessel in the brain).
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