How Many People Have Died From Sneezing?

February 28, 2024

If you've ever tried to stifle a sneeze, you know what it feels like. It hurts your face, throat and chest. It can even break ribs. That's why doctors say never try to hold a sneeze in. They warn it could damage your lungs and cause serious injury to the body's blood vessels and eardrums.

In most cases, a sneeze is a healthy way for your body to clear away foreign material from your nose and mouth. When something irritates the delicate membranes inside your nasal passages, the nerves send a signal to the brain. The brain then activates a series of muscles in the stomach, chest and head to create a spasmodic involuntary movement that pushes air, saliva and mucus out of your nose and mouth in a quick explosion called sternutation.

The force of the sneeze can spread disease through infectious droplets that may contain germs. So doctors recommend covering your nose and mouth with the crook of your elbow, or a tissue or handkerchief to protect yourself from germs.

Sneezes also can redirect air into your middle ear, which can lead to infection. Infections from sneeze-redirected bacteria usually clear up without treatment, but antibiotics might be needed if the infection is severe.

In very rare cases, it's possible that the force of a sneeze can be strong enough to rupture your eardrum. That's usually painful and often leads to hearing loss, but your doctor can usually repair the eardrum after you sneeze.

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