Suppressing a sneeze can be risky, doctors warn

Leslie Hanson
January 16, 2018

Just how risky this can be was illustrated when a 34-year-old man showed up at the emergency service of a hospital in Leicester, England recently, with a swollen neck and in extreme pain.

After a man in the United Kingdom ruptured the back of his throat during the maneuver, he was left unable to swallow and had difficulty speaking for days.

All the patient had tried to do was to contain his sneeze.

He was left barely able to speak or swallow.

When doctors examined him, they could hear crackling sounds-known as crepitus in medical parlance-from his neck to his rib cage.

Spontaneous rupture of the back of the throat is rare and is more typically associated with trauma.

That was a sure sign air bubbles had found their way into the deep tissue and muscles of the chest. If it's not caught and treated early on, it can lead to serious complications.

He was rushed to hospital, where he spent the next week being fed by a tube and on intravenous antibiotics.

It took him a week to recover and he was finally discharged on the advice of never trying to block his nose while sneezing again.

In a case study published Monday in the journal BMJ Case Reports, doctors in Leicester write that they initially were confused when the man complained of swallowing difficulties and "a popping sensation" in his swollen neck.

"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)".

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