If you pinch your nose and clamp your mouth shut when sneezing, you might want to switch up your technique for the sake of your health.
Doctors have warned against holding in a forceful sneeze, after a man ruptured the back of his throat doing so.
The manoeuvre left the 34-year-old barely able to speak or swallow, and in considerable pain.
Spontaneous rupture of the back of the throat is rare, and usually caused by trauma, or sometimes by vomiting, retching or heavy coughing, so the man’s symptoms initially surprised emergency care doctors.
The man explained that he had developed a popping sensation in his neck which immediately swelled up after he tried to contain a forceful sneeze by pinching his nose and keeping his mouth shut at the same time.
A little later he found it extremely painful to swallow and almost lost his voice.
When the doctors examined him they heard popping and crackling sounds (crepitus), which extended from his neck all the way down to his ribcage.
This was a sure sign that air bubbles had found their way into the deep tissue and muscles of the chest, which was subsequently confirmed by a computed tomography scan.
Because of the risk of serious complications, the man was admitted to hospital, where he was fed by tube and given intravenous antibiotics until the swelling and pain had subsided.
After seven days he was well enough to be discharged with the advice not to block both nostrils when sneezing in future.
“Halting sneezing via blocking [the] nostrils and mouth is a dangerous manoeuvre, and should be avoided,” the authors wrote in BMJ Case Reports.
“It may lead to numerous complications, such as pseudomediastinum [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].”
If you’re stuck for a new sneezing technique, Public Health England recommends sneezing into a tissue - without clamping your mouth and nose shut - and disposing of the tissue immediately afterwards.
If you haven’t got a tissue, sneeze into your hands and wash them straight away afterwards - don’t hold it in.