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Don’t Stifle Your Sneeze

Oh no! Do you feel a sneeze coming on? You may feel the urge to stifle it but think again.

Though sneezing may be an unpleasant sound to hear these days, you may face some potential complications if you try to pinch your nose or hold one back.

Sneeze hazards

Rest assured your eyes won’t pop out of your head and your heart won’t stop like some urban legends contend, but holding your sneeze is dangerous because of the energy it produces.

“Sneezing generates significant pressure in the upper airway,” said Bruce Stewart, MD, an ear, nose and throat doctor with Banner Health in Tucson, Arizona. “If you block the release of this pressure by trying to hold in the sneeze it can cause a rupture of your eardrums, irritation of the throat and, even in severe cases, rupture blood vessels in your eyes or brain.”

Benefits of sneezing

The whole process of sneezing may seem gross and embarrassing but doing so can help keep you healthy.

“While sneezing does play a role in the spread of infection, it is also helpful in clearing irritants and foreign objects from the nasal cavity,” Dr. Stewart said. “It is usually triggered by irritation in the nasal mucus membranes.”

Whether it’s allergy season, pet dander or another irritant or contaminate, your body wants those foreign particles that enter your nasal passages out. And a sneeze is one way your body naturally does that.

How to treat a sneeze

Although suppressing sneezes isn’t without some dangers, you shouldn’t just let them fly. One sneeze can carry up to 100,000 viruses and bacteria. Gross! Make sure you are covering your mouth and nose appropriately.

“Covering your mouth and nose loosely will reduce this risk without blocking the release of pressure from the nasal airway,” Dr. Stewart said. “This is particularly important during the COVID pandemic as respiratory droplets are the primary means of transmission.”

Whether it’s the Dracula move or using your mask for what it was intended for, here are some helpful ways to treat your sneeze the next time you feel that itchy sensation in your nose.

Sneeze Etiquette Infographic

Infographic citations

For more safety and wellness tips, reach out to a Banner Health provider or visit bannerhealth.com.

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Ear, Nose and Throat Wellness