The urge to hold in a sneeze when out in public is a common one, especially in the age of COVID-19. Whether at work or browsing through arrangements at Ira’s Flowers you want to be polite and avoid spreading germs to those around you.
However, there are risk factors to holding in a sneeze, and doing so can cause more harm than you may realize.
The Power of a Sneeze
When you sneeze, your body produces pressure in your respiratory system, which includes your sinuses, nasal cavity, and down the throat to your lungs. Scientists have determined that sneezing produces significantly more pressure in your respiratory system than breathing hard during strenuous activity. Furthermore, they found that holding in a sneeze creates 5 to 24 times more pressure than a regular sneeze.
All that pressure being held in can potentially cause pain and injury, including:
- Pain in your chest
- Ruptured eardrum
- Damage to the blood vessels in your eyes, nose, or eardrums
- Injury to diaphragm
- Throat damage
- Broken ribs
- If you have a pre-existing brain aneurysm, there is a slight chance that the pressure from holding in a sneeze could cause it to rupture.
Risk of Ear Infection
The reason we sneeze is to help clear our noses of things that shouldn’t be there. This can be because of allergies, irritants or viral and bacterial infections. By holding in sneezes, you potentially allow infected mucus into your middle ear, leading to an ear infection.
While usually not serious, ear infections can be painful and unpleasant. Some clear up on their own while others require antibiotics or other treatments.
What to Do Instead
Instead of holding in a sneeze in public, just make sure you are sneezing in a way that minimizes the spread of germs. Turn your head from others, cover your nose and mouth and make sure to wash your hands right afterward.
If you find yourself sneezing frequently and feel like allergies are the culprit, there are several steps you can take including trying antihistamines or making an appointment with an allergist. An allergist can run tests to determine your triggers and prescribe stronger medication if over-the-counter treatments aren’t effective.
For more information or to speak with an expert allergist, contact Spartanburg | Greer ENT & Allergy today.