Blocking a sneeze could have serious consequences ranging from eardrum damage to aneurysm rupture. Explanations.
Generally, sneezing occurs as a result of irritation of the nasal mucosa related to the presence of dust. How it works ? “On the bronchi, cilia beat from bottom to top like a mucous carpet. For large dusts, there can be an impact which provokes a well-known reflex: sneezing“, details Dr. Christian Recchia.
But the reflex is often the same for everyone, hold your nose or shut your mouth. However, this innocuous gesture can have serious consequences for health. In England, a 34-year-old man suffered a tear in the back of his throat after he suppressed a sneeze. The scanner confirmed that the air pressure was the cause.
“Do not block the sneeze because you can cause intra pulmonary hypertension, alveolar damage. You can cause blockages of venous return from the skull which can cause temporary cranial hypertension“, warns Dr. Christian Recchia. Indeed, because of this bad reflex you increase the pressure in the nose, throat, ears and brain.
According to a study published in the BMJ Case Reports in January 2018, preventing a sneeze could damage the eardrums and, in even rarer cases, cause an aneurysm in the brain to rupture. This phenomenon can also cause lung problems because the air is blocked in the chest between the two lungs. Suppressing a sneeze could even lead to “perforation of the tympanic membrane and even a ruptured cerebral aneurysm“.
Quoted by Ouest France, Dr. Jean-Michel Klein, vice-president of the National Union of Physicians Specialized in Otolaryngology (Snorl) explains that holding back your sneeze can cause “edema of the eye, but also cause violent headaches, nosebleeds and even meningeal syndromes“. In some cases, this reflex can impact the eardrum and hearing due to the sudden increase in air pressure.
In the most serious cases, the situation can be dramatic, warned Dr Gérald Kierzek, emergency doctor, quoted by Europe 1 in 2018: “Holding back a sneeze can even cause a blood vessel in the brain to rupture due to the momentary rise in blood pressure, thus causing death.“.
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