You know those scary, but seemingly ridiculous myths people share around the lunch table that you only half-believe? The ones that leave you pondering equally ridiculous questions like, for example, can holding in a sneeze actually kill you? Well, as it turns out, that's not exactly a myth: According to a report published by The British Medical Journal on Monday, Jan. 15, a man literally ruptured his throat after stifling a sneeze.
Guys, if you ask me, life is stressful enough as it is without the fear of blowing up from the inside out because you were trying to be polite in a crowded commuter car. But hey, I guess we can't always get what we want in this life.
According to the case study from The British Medical Journal, an unnamed 34-year-old man went to the doctor because he was having pain when he swallowed, and he also noticed his voice had changed a little bit, too (which is personally one of my worst nightmares). He told the doctors that he'd heard a popping sensation in his neck after sneezing, but naturally, he didn't think of it as anything bad, because to his knowledge, he hadn't done anything to merit a sore, pulled muscle, or anything else like that.
The cause of the pain in the man's neck was — drumroll, please — nothing more than a sneeze.
Here's what happened: The man apparently pinched his nose and kept his mouth closed during the sneeze, and that's when the popping noise happened. That's literally all this man did. According to the case study in BMJ, he was healthy overall and had no history of illnesses that might have contributed to the injury.
The result of the pinched sneeze was a scary sounding diagnosis: a "spontaneous pharyngeal rupture" (as if this whole thing wasn't terrifying enough as it is), which led to a "cervical subcutaneous emphysema and pneumomediastinum." Let's break that sh*t down: In layman's terms, that means that there were pockets of air underneath his skin in the part of the throat between the mouth and esophagus, which would imply a tear. Anyone else cringing into their seat right now?
Thankfully, the man was OK in the long run — that is, after the doctors had to put a tube down his throat, which is generally terrifying in any circumstance. According to the BMJ report, the doctors' advice to the man was, admittedly, pretty funny: In the future, they told him "to avoid obstructing both nostrils while sneezing."
Holding a sneeze in is never a good idea, even though situations like this are pretty rare.
Sneezes and coughs hold serious force when exiting your body: A cough can move up to 50 miles per hour, and a sneeze can be up to 100 miles per hour. When you think about it that way, it's really no surprise that holding in a sneeze can potentially have a disastrous effect on your body.
So, what's a girl to do when you need to sneeze, but you don't want to explode all over a random stranger on the subway? One easy, and not-super-gross way to sneeze in public is to let the sneeze out into the crook of your elbow. That way, you're containing the majority of the debris coming out of your nose (yum), and you're also ensuring that your hand won't be ridden with germs, so you can shake someone's hand later without feeling guilty and icky about it.
Another great option is to keep a tiny set of tissues on you at all times, or you can take the old school route and keep a handkerchief with you. If you go with that second option, though, please make sure you wash that thing regularly.
Keep in mind that injuring yourself as a result of sneezing is possible, but it's very, very unlikely.
With that said, holding in a sneeze is never a good idea. At best, it'll make you uncomfortable. At worst, it might trigger a "cerebral aneurysm," which is basically when a blood vessel bursts in the brain and leads to heavy bleeding, and can often be fatal. No big deal, though!!!