Questions and Answers

Is Holding Your Nose When You Sneeze Really Bad for You?

A Huge Sneeze
“Sneeze” by James Gathany – CDC Public Health Image library ID 11162. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

AChoo… Now here’s one I’m certain we’ve all heard before.  Don’t hold your nose when you sneeze, it’s bad for you.  Or, holding your nose when you sneeze will cause you to blow out your eardrums.

Of course for any of you that have done this before, myself being one of those people, you know that it doesn’t exactly feel great to sneeze while holding your nose. But is it really bad for you?  Better yet, can you really blow out your eardrums by holding in a sneeze?

Let’s explore into these questions and just see how much truth there is to this.

What’s the Best Way to Sneeze

Of course when we sneeze, we are not the only ones that are affected.  The people around us may also fall victim to our geyser of self relief. So should we try to stifle our sneeze only to let out a tiny high pitched squeal. Or should we let ‘er rip and blast everyone within a five mile radius out of their seats?

Believe it or not, sneezing being the serious subject that it is, there’s been very little research done on the all mighty sneeze.

Of course as with anything, the best remedy for not endangering yourself is to simply not do it at all.  If you can prevent a sneeze from happening, then blowing out your eardrums or your neighbor is of no concern.  Everyone has different methods for preventing a sneeze, whether it is thinking of your favorite song, pinching your upper lip, or breathing only through your mouth. But normally it is to no avail.

So if you simply can’t stop the inevitable and you have to let that sneeze fly, then let it come naturally. Here’s a fun fact for you…

When we sneeze, there are thousands of tiny particles that are blown out of your nostrils at over a hundred miles per hour.

That being said, can you imagine what that amount of pressure could do to the tissue inside your head? If you were to prevent it from coming out that is.  I went into a lot more detail on the science behind sneezing in my article Sneezing, Ahhh Feels so Good if you want to learn more of why a sneeze occurs.

Cases of Blocking the Sneeze

Believe it or not, there are actual cases recorded in medical literature that involve someone preventing a sneeze. Some of these cases involved physical injury. Things like hernias, brain aneurysms and even nerve damage.

For those of you familiar with baseball, you may know Sammy Sosa. In 2004 he actually made headline news for missing a game against the Padres because he was having back spasms. Yep you guessed it, these back spasms were caused by a sneeze.

But most cases of a sneeze gone bad involved wild sneezes that were let loose with a vengeance. No attempts to prevent them were made.

What do Doctors Say About Preventing a Sneeze

According to some doctors, suppressing a sneeze could potentially injure the diaphragm, your brain, blood vessels in the eyes, and yes, could even damage your eardrums. But they continue to say that even though these are possibilities, they are highly unlikely.

If one of these horrible injuries were to happen, then it would probably be due to some underlying anatomical oddity. Basically, if you’ve had some preexisting injury or surgery on your head, or problems with your throat, then these injuries would be more likely to happen. Otherwise, there’s nothing to fear.

According to doctors, preventing a sneeze is no more harmful than letting them blast out into the public during a sneeze attack.

What are the Real Effects of Preventing a Sneeze

Most medical guides will tell you not to hold in a sneeze because the stuff you are sneezing out could possibly cause infection if it’s propelled back into your sinuses and ears.

To me this sounds a lot more likely than blowing your eye out of its socket or bursting an eardrum. But we must keep in mind, that there has never been any kind of controlled experiments done on this sort of thing.

So my best advice to you is, Sneeze how you feel most comfortable and let the good times roll. As far as exploding blood vessels or bursting an eardrum, I wouldn’t worry yourself to death over it.

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