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Is It Bad To Hold in a Sneeze

Is It Bad To Hold in a Sneeze? Exploring The Potential Dangers

Have you ever felt the urge to sneeze, but held it in just as you were about to?

In the world of bodily reflexes, the phenomenon of sneezing is just as natural as breathing – Yet, many of us have been conditioned to hold back on this instinct, without even realizing the potential harm it can cause.

In today’s blog, we will answer the looming question ‘is it bad to hold in a sneeze?’, along with exploring the dangers of holding in a sneeze.

Why Shouldn’t You Stop a Sneeze?

Sneezing is your body’s way of clearing irritants from your nasal passages. When you stop a sneeze, you interrupt this natural process, trapping bacteria, viruses, and allergens inside your nasal cavity – leading to various complications.

Dangers of Holding in a Sneeze

  • Sinus Damage: The pressure generated by a suppressed sneeze can damage delicate sinus tissues, leading to inflammation and pain.
  • Middle Ear Injury: Holding in a sneeze can cause a sudden increase in pressure within the middle ear, potentially resulting in ear pain, eardrum rupture, or even hearing loss.
  • Eye Injuries: The force of a suppressed sneeze can cause damage to the blood vessels and tissues in the eyes, leading to redness, irritation, or in severe cases, retinal detachment.
  • Potential for Aneurysm Rupture: In rare cases, holding in a sneeze can trigger a sudden increase in blood pressure, which may pose a risk for individuals with pre-existing aneurysms.
  • Disruption of Defense Mechanisms: Suppressing sneezes hinders the body’s ability to expel irritants, increasing the risk of infections.
  • Ear Infection: Stifling a sneeze can trap bacteria in the ear, which may lead to infection.
  • Fractures: In extreme cases, the force of holding in a sneeze can lead to bone fractures, especially in the ribs.
  • Ruptured Eardrum: The sudden pressure from holding in a sneeze can rupture the eardrum, causing pain and potential hearing loss.
  • Subcutaneous Emphysema: In rare cases, stifling a sneeze can force air into the tissues under the skin, leading to swelling and discomfort.
  • Throat or Neck Pain: If you decide to stop a sneeze, it can strain the throat muscles, leading to soreness or discomfort.

Can Holding in a Sneeze Cause a Heart Attack?

While the immediate effects of holding in a sneeze are primarily localized to the head and neck, there is some speculation about the potential link between suppressing a sneeze and cardiovascular events like heart attacks.

Although research in this area is limited, some experts suggest that the sudden increase in intrathoracic pressure during a stifled sneeze could potentially strain the heart, particularly in individuals with underlying cardiac conditions.

What Should You Do Instead of Holding in a Sneeze?

Instead of stifling a sneeze, opt for more gentle methods of containment, such as covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or sneezing into the crook of your elbow. This allows you to naturally expel irritants while minimizing the risk of spreading germs.

Benefits of Sneezing

  • Clears Nasal Passages: Sneezing helps expel irritants, allergens, and infectious agents from the nasal passages, promoting clear breathing and reducing the risk of respiratory infections.
  • Relieves Nasal Congestion: Sneezing can provide temporary relief from nasal congestion by expelling excess mucus and opening up blocked airways.
  • Stimulates the Nervous System: Sneezing triggers the release of endorphins, natural painkillers produced by the body, which can help get rid of the discomfort.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is sneezing good for you?

Yes, sneezing is a natural reflex that helps clear irritants from your nasal passages, promoting respiratory health.

Is it normal to not sneeze for days?

It's not uncommon to go days without sneezing, especially if you haven't encountered any irritants or allergens.

If you stop a sneeze, does it kill brain cells?

No, holding in a sneeze does not kill brain cells. However, it can potentially lead to other health risks, such as sinus or ear damage.

Does your heart stop when you sneeze?

No, your heart does not stop when you sneeze. While sneezing can briefly increase pressure in the chest, it does not cause the heart to stop beating.

How powerful is a sneeze?

A sneeze can be quite powerful. On average, a sneeze can expel air at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour (160 kilometers per hour) or more - releasing thousands of droplets that potentially spread germs.

– Disclaimer –

This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 04/03/2024

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  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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