Never Hold Back A Sneeze: Here’s Why!

Sneezing is a reflex by which our body fights away irritants that are inhaled into the nose. Ever wondered why you sneeze more than once in a row sometimes, it is because at times it takes more than one go to clear off all the irritants.

Holding your nose and mouth when a forceful sneeze urges might seem like a simple and harmless thing to do, but did you know that this act could result in severe medical consequences? Firstly one needs to understand that sneezing is a reflex to infiltrate the nasal lining and clear its passages to be able to breathe clean air. In case of an irritation, the chest muscles contract/tighten leading to pressure build up. The tongue then pushes against the roof of the mouth forcing breath to push out through the nose, hence causing a sneeze.

It’s always the wrong time when there is an urge to sneeze in the middle of a movie theater or a meeting. A sneeze travels at about 100 miles per hour, which is probably the reason why people tend in hold in their sneeze as they do not want to spread the germs all over. Moreover in some social situations like on a public transport or in between a presentation, one doesn’t feel its right to push out a big sneeze and hence being polite, you hold it back. But, have you ever thought what this could do to your body?

So do you also hold in your sneeze sometimes? Holding your nose and mouth in order to stop a sneeze could result in the following;

  • You could rupture an eardrum
  • You could break a blood vessel in your eye
  • You could rupture your throat
  • The pressure caused could push back onto the skull and sinus and result in small gaps in the bones between the nose, eyes, and brain
  • A brain aneurysm or bulging in a blood vessel in the brain
  • Pneumomediastinum which causes air to be trapped in the chest between the lungs

The reported cases of occurrence of any of the aforementioned may be rare, but it’s definitely not a risk worth taking. The most commonly affected area for holding a sneeze is the ears. Sneezing is an automatic and largely uncontrollable reflex mechanism designed to repel the allergen that has entered the nose. Depending on the capacity of your lung, a sneeze can be rather powerful, hence holding your nose and closing your mouth at the same time in order to stop a sneeze can be dangerous because you are blocking the air from escaping. If the air can’t escape through the mouth, it has to from elsewhere. Hence, suppressing the powerful air coming from the lungs could cause severe internal damage and disabilities.

Do not ever hold your nose and mouth closed at the same time while trying to stop a sneeze. If you do want to stop a sneeze, there are other mechanisms to follow like tickling the surface of your mouth with your tongue, blowing your nose, etc.

In all cases, sneezing is a natural process and is common to all, hence there is nothing to be ashamed of it. Always try to sneeze it out and never hold back. Follow basic etiquettes and cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze. If you do not have a tissue available, sneeze into your elbow, and never into your hands. Always make sure to wash your hands up to the elbow after coughing or sneezing, in order to prevent the spread of germs.











Dr. Ranjith Venkitachalam

ENT Specialist

Aster Clinic, Karama (DMMC)


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