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Think a Sneeze Isn’t Dangerous? Think Again

Ever find yourself in the middle an intense conversation, a critical meeting, or just jammed into a tight space with others only to have all the symptoms of an intense sneeze come on? The genteel, polite, or just plain hygenic of us – or those without an accessible tissue – may be strongly inclined to try to hold back that sneeze at all costs. Even worse, some pinch their nostrils closed as an extra measure.

But as medical pros will tell you: NEVER suppress a sneeze.

Why? Because you can seriously hurt yourself. Sure, you might get by with no lingering problems 9 out of 10 times you try to suppress that sneeze. But statistically speaking, you’re still operating under a risk.

Believe it or not, the human sneeze has actually been clocked. A simple sneeze can travel at over 100 MPH – that’s right, even faster than many cars will travel. Think of trying to instantly stop a vehicle traveling at that high a rate of speed. While the mucus of a sneeze weighs thousands of pounds less than that car or truck, you still have a rocket propulsion system in your head.

Understand, too, that the car may fare far better than your poor head. Our skulls and their accessory organs and glands are packed in extremely tight quarters. The very kind of percussion involved in a suppressed sneeze can wreak serious injury, mostly to the structures within our heads.

For example, you can create a prolonged “ringing” sensation, or affect your hearing, which may or may not be temporary. There’s also a chance you burst an eardrum. You can actually tear blood vessels and muscles within the head. A sinus hemorrhage is also possible, and it’s reported that more than a few older people have actually sustained brain injury and possible death just out of fear of committing a social faux pas like a violent sneeze.

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There’s more danger possible as well. People have not only accidentally severely bitten their tongues during such an episode, they’ve severed parts of their tongues as well. Just because of the bacteria and organisms present in even the cleanest mouths can make the simple act of biting a chunk out of an inner cheek turn into a long recovery that must be watched carefully for infection.

More than a few have broken teeth by the force with which your upper and lower jaw can snap shut in the process. Even ruptures within the throat may occur or a esophagus can be damaged.

Then there is the issue of a relatively rare yet still possible effect of a repressed sneeze or anything else that causes injury to the face: facial emphysema, a condition seen both in adults and children. Potentially deadly because it can restrict air supply, facial emphysema – either from a repressed sneeze, anesthesia, or some dental work – can create deep air spaces in the face and neck, sometimes extending as far as into the lungs. Signs are typically facial and/or neck swelling and discomfort and medical treatment should be sought immediately.

So give a sneeze the respect – and trajectory – it deserves: carry around a quickly accessible pocket pack of tissues and sneeze away! The face and head you protect can be your very own.