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Holding In A Sneeze Can Be Dangerous

Sneezing is nature’s defence against infections that enter your the body. When your body senses the entrance of something unwanted into your nose, your body makes you sneeze. These unwanted or irritants include dirt, dust, bacteria, pollen, smoke or mould [1].

Interestingly, when we sneeze, the bacteria or any harmful particle that tries to enter the body comes out with a force of 160 kilometres per hour. In this way, sneezing prevents you from getting any serious infections [2].

Fun fact, have you ever thought why the other person says ‘Bless you’ when one sneezes? Well, that’s because sneezing may risk our lives if we stop it. In more clarity, when you sneeze, your heart stops for a millisecond or so it is said.

Let’s explore the ways holding in a sneeze can affect your body.

According to the UAMS’ Department of Otolaryngology, your heart does not really stop when you sneeze [3]. While expelling foreign materials such as dust or pollen from your respiratory tract, the high pressure in your mouth causes your brain to result in the nerves producing extra mucus in your nose; which in turn helps in keeping foreign substances from entering your lungs [4][5]. Also, when you sneeze, the intrathoracic pressure (pressure within the pleural cavity – the thin fluid-filled space between the two pulmonary pleurae of lungs) in your body momentarily increases, which causes a decrease in the blood flow to the heart [6].

When this happens, your heart compensates for the lack of blood flow by shifting its regular heartbeat momentarily to adjust [7]. So while this is happening, contrary to popular belief, the electrical activity of the heart does not stop during the sneeze [8]. Basically, when you sneeze, your heart rhythm encounters some shifts with your next heartbeat being delayed a bit and that does not mean that your heart stops beating completely.

Sneezing causes the air to come out of our nostrils at a speed of about 160 kilometres per hour. If you stop your sneeze, all this pressure will get diverted to another part of the body such as ears and may result in cracking your eardrums and causes loss of hearing [9]. And when one’s body is undergoing any strenuous activity, like that of a sneeze, the windpipe pressure increases and when it is not released, the lack of an outlet can result in the pressure being distributed within yourself. Holding in a sneeze can increase the pressure inside the respiratory system that can be 5 to 25 times higher than the force a sneeze produces. Hence, holding in this force can lead to several injuries and serious problems within your body [10].