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Holding in a sneeze can be a literal pain in the neck

(CNN)If you are about to sneeze — even if you are in a quiet place — doctors would advise you to let it rip. A 34-year-old unnamed man in Britain learned that lesson the hard way and had to spend two weeks in the hospital due to his resulting injury. That’s according to a case report with the cringe-inducing title “Snap, crackle and pop: when sneezing leads to crackling in the neck.” The report was published Monday in the medical journal BMJ Case Reports.

According to the report, this “previously fit” man pinched his nose and kept his mouth closed during a “forceful” sneeze. He later told doctors he immediately felt a popping sensation in his neck. He didn’t notice any problems right away, but a couple of hours later he felt pain in his throat and neck. When it became swollen and his voice changed, he took himself to the hospital.
“This 34-year-old chap said he was always trying to hold his sneeze because he thinks it is very unhygienic to sneeze into the atmosphere or into someone’s face. That means he’s been holding his sneezes for the last 30 years or so, but this time it was different,” case report author Dr. Wanding Yang said. She works in the department of ear, nose and throat at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.Initially, doctors saw swelling in his neck and when they examined the soft tissue they heard popping and crackling. Yang said that meant there were air bubbles getting into the man’s muscles and deep into his tissue.
Scans confirmed the problem. The tests showed actual streaks of air in the retropharyngeal region and extensive surgical emphysema in the neck anterior to the trachea. In other words, by trying to hold in his sneeze, he actually blew a small hole in his throat.

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