Man's throat ruptured by 'forceful sneeze'

A ‘fit and well’ man’s attempt to contain a sneeze put him in hospital for a week after he ruptured his throat.

The 34-year-old unnamed man found himself unable to swallow or speak when he held his nose as he sneezed, causing a spontaneous perforation of the pharynx.

It’s an unusual condition that occurs after trauma such as vomiting or heavy coughing.

The pharynx is the part of the throat that is behind the mouth and nasal cavity.

He told doctors at hospital in Leicester that he had developed a popping sensation in the back of his throat and this had suddenly swelled up after he tried to hold in a sneeze by shutting his mouth and pinching his nose at the same time.

Doctors then heard the popping and crackling sounds in his neck, which extended all the way down to his ribcage. The sounds indicate that air bubbles had found their way into the deep tissue and muscles of the chest, which was later confirmed by a scan.

He had to spend seven days in hospital, being fed through a tube and given antibiotics through an IV drip, as doctors were concerned about complications that could arise.

Writing in the BMLJ case studies, the team said holding a sneeze in by clamping the nose and mouth shut is not a good idea and could lead to “numerous complications”.

“Halting sneezing via blocking (the) nostrils and mouth is a dangerous manoeuvre, and should be avoided,” the authors said.

“It may lead to numerous complications, such as pseudomediastinum (air trapped in the chest between both lungs), perforation of the tympanic membrane (perforated eardrum), and even rupture of a cerebral aneurysm (ballooning blood vessel in the brain),” they added.

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