Coughs and sneezes may spread diseases, but trying to hold your next sternutation completely in can cause trouble, too.
A “previously fit and well” 34-year-old man in England ruptured his throat after he pinched his nose and closed his mouth to contain a sneeze, according to a case study the British Medical Journal shared online Monday.
“Halting sneeze via blocking nostrils and mouth is a dangerous manoeuvre and should be avoided, as it may lead to numerous complications,” wrote the authors of the report, who described the damage as rare.
The unidentified man in the article developed a popping feeling in the back of his throat and swelling in his neck after the stifled sneeze. He also experienced difficulty swallowing and speaking.
Doctors at a hospital in Leicester discovered that air bubbles from the rupture were permeating the soft tissue of his neck and chest. He was hospitalized for seven days, administered antibiotics and fed via a tube so that the rupture could heal. He eventually made a full recovery.
Anthony Aymat, a consultant at University Hospital Lewisham in London, told Time magazine that “the safest thing to do, although it’s not socially acceptable, is just to sneeze loud” and catch the germ cloud in a tissue.
“When you sneeze, air comes out of you at about 150 miles per hour,” said Aymat, who was not involved in the reported case. “If you retain all that pressure, it could do a lot of damage and you could end up like the Michelin Man with air trapped in your body.”