Man sneezing into tissue

Have you ever sneezed at the wrong moment, like during a quiet event or in the middle of lunch? Even though your friends and family might understand, you might feel self-conscious, especially if you’re worried about spreading germs. One method that’s been suggested to stop a sneeze is to hold your nose, but is it the right move?

What happens when you sneeze?

If the lining of your nose gets irritated by substances like pepper, dust, and pollen, or through inflammation from being sick, the cilia (hair-like structures on your nasal lining cells) send a signal to nerves in your lower brain stem. This causes your chest to build pressure and your vocal chords to close until air is forced out from your respiratory tract and through the nose.

How should you cover a sneeze?

Sneezing is good for removing irritants and unwanted particles from your nose, but it can also spread germs. Rather than sneeze into the open air or in your hands, it’s recommended that you sneeze into a tissue or the crook of your elbow to contain it.

Can you hold your nose to stop sneezing?

One common trick that people have done to stifle a sneeze is to hold their nose. While it seems like a harmless maneuver, it can actually lead to some severe results on other parts of your body. When you sneeze, the speed of the air leaving your nose can reach up to 100 miles per hour. Containing that much pressure inside can rupture your eardrum, throat damage, and a blood vessel burst in the eye, among other serious consequences.

Are there ways to stop sneezing?

A simple solution to stopping your sneezing is to remove yourself from the environment that has the irritant (ex. animal and outdoor allergies). If that is not an option, one technique to try is to press your tongue against the back of your front teeth to reduce the urge to sneeze. A humidifier is an effective way to mitigate sneezing if the main cause is dry air causing irritation to your mucus membrane.

Sneezing has its usefulness in keeping your nose safe, but sometimes it can disrupt your life. If you’re constantly sneezing and suspect it may be a sinus problem or allergies, set up an appointment with a CEENTA ENT specialist. Schedule online to clear your nose and your mind. 

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. New patients can make appointments online with our ENT doctors in North and South Carolina. Current patients can also make appointments through myCEENTAchart with physicians they have already seen.


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