Is It Safe to Hold in a Sneeze?

Image by Scott Air Force Base

If your allergies have you sniffling and sneezing, let that sneeze out; if you don’t, it could be dangerous. Most injuries from stifling a sneeze are just plain old bad luck.

I wouldn’t recommend suppressing a sneeze by any method, whether by pinching one’s nose or consciously sneezing into a closed throat,” said Alan Wild, a head and neck surgeon and assistant professor of otolaryngology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine via Live Science.

Prior to a sneeze, a significant amount of air pressure builds in the lungs in preparation of being forced through the nasal cavity to clear irritants out of the nasal passages. Imagine suppressing all that air pressure.

If the sneeze is held in by pinching the nose or holding the mouth closed, this pressurized air is forced back through the Eustachian tube and into the middle ear cavity.

The risk of an injury is low but you might just be the unlucky one,” Wild said. “Some also are concerned that stifling the sneeze is just a temporary outcome that whatever provoked the sneeze is still present and will cause another sneeze shortly.

Other physical injuries that may result from holding a sneeze include diaphragm injuries, ruptured blood vessels in the eyes, and ruptured or weakened blood vessels in the brain.

So please, if you feel the urge to sneeze just let it go…

Watch the video below from an episode of The Doctors TV Show.