Why You Should Not Hold A Sneeze

You are in a major meeting with some clients you have tried to land for the last 6 months. Corporate has flown in, maybe a great deli spread, and the president is going over the presentation. You know it’s going to happen, you are going to close the deal. But then all of a sudden you get that tingle in your nose, the eyes start watering, your lungs begin to fill with air. Here it comes, a major sneeze that is going to create a big time scene. So you squeeze the nose and manage to somehow hold it in. Now what?

What happens to your body when you hold in a sneeze? Death. Maybe a little extreme but how about this story to show the damage of holding a sneeze. A UK man was about to sneeze and he attempted to hold it in. He did not try the conventional way of placing an index finger under his nose, NOOO. He clamped his nose and mouth shut trying to really hold off that sneeze. End result? Right after he held the sneeze, he noticed he could not talk and it difficult to swallow. This caused him to go to the emergency room immediately. They found that holding the sneeze caused him to rip a hole in his throats soft tissue, causing air to leak.  The pressure within his neck from the sneeze caused a major tear.

Let’s help explain what psychologically happens when you are about to sneeze to better understand what happened. A sneeze is a protective reflex, so a sneeze is actually a good thing for us. It begins when the nasal mucosa (the lining of your nose) becomes irritated by things like dirt, dust, bacteria or other particles. The irritation sends a signal to your brain, which activates your chest, lungs, and abdomen to work in unison to compress and expel the particles through your nose and mouth. So how powerful is your sneeze: The top speed of a sneeze can reach upwards of 100 mph, so holding a sneeze is almost like stopping a professional fastball in its tracks, with the inside your neck.

According to studies, you could rupture your eardrums, break a blood vessel in the whites of your eyes or injure your diaphragm. In the worst-case scenario, you could weaken a blood vessel in the brain and cause it to rupture.

So where does this sneeze actually go if you successfully hold it in? Nowhere good! The pressure will go up the nasal cavity and down through your chest. A place that kind of pressure doesn’t belong.

Do I really need to say more? Let that sneeze fly! Holding the sneeze can cause some serious damage, so unleash the beast, even if you are in some super business meeting that controls the rest of your being.