Man Holds In Sneeze, Ruptures Throat

Eric Lieberman | Associate Editor

A 34-year-old man ruled to be “previously fit and well” ruptured his throat after trying to hold in an apparently urgent, powerful sneeze, according to a paper published Monday by BMJ Case Reports.

In an oft-utilized, but evidently dangerous method, the sneezer tried to stop the reflexive nasal discharge by clamping down on his nose with his fingers, while also attempting to keep his mouth tightly shut. The force was too much for the manual deterrent, and ended up blowing out his pharynx, the membrane-lined cavity located underneath the mouth and nose that links to the esophagus.

Known as spontaneous perforation of the pharynx, deemed “an unusual condition,” the injury included intense trauma to the throat and surrounding area. The man felt and heard a popping sensation in his neck known as crepitus before it started to swell up, lending the name of the report “Snap, crackle and pop: when sneezing leads to crackling in the neck.”

He was admitted to the ER and stayed in the hospital for roughly a week, mostly due to risk of contracting a “deep neck infection.” Getting such an injury from sneezing is rare, according to the case report conducted by doctors Raguwinder S. Sahota, Sudip Das, and Yang Wanding.

Conclusions made, as in what should be learned from this situation is that, while spontaneous perforation of the pharynx is extremely rare with sneezing, and for the most part in general, “obstructing both nostrils and moth during sneezing should be avoided.”

Doing so could lead to “pneumomediastinum, perforation of tympanic membrane, and even rupture of cerebral aneurysm,” all very serious injuries and conditions.

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