Recently, a man driving his car held back from sneezing. In severe pain, he went to the hospital and was diagnosed with a tracheal perforation. How to explain such an incident? Dr Gérald Kierzek, emergency doctor, answers us.
It was in England that the events occurred. A man in his thirties suffering from allergic rhinitis held back from sneezing while driving his car. Result: he tore his trachea. This astonishing clinical case was shared in the journal BMJ Case Reports.
The patient’s neck was severely swollen
After holding back from sneezing by pinching his nose and keeping his mouth closed, the man felt a sharp pain, localized in the neck. He then went to the medical school hospital in Dundee (Scotland) for a check-up.
Doctors noticed that his neck had swollen and that he had a slight gas crackle (sort of little bubbles under the skin, editor’s note). His neck movement was otherwise limited.
Further examination of the neck tissues ultimately showed a “surgical emphysema” accompanied by a slight tear of the trachea, 5 mm deep, between the third and fourth thoracic vertebra. Air in the thorax region was also detected.
According to doctors, there is no doubt: this perforation of the trachea is linked to the increased pressure caused by sneezing – with the nose pinched and the mouth closed.
Potentially serious side effects
If this incident is extremely rare to say the least, holding back from sneezing can indeed be dangerous, recalls Dr. Gérald Kierzek.
“Sneezing is a reflex action. It is advisable not to stop it otherwise there is a risk of high pressure in the body. We can then suffer from a pneumothorax, a ruptured eardrum, a ruptured aneurysm, or, as is the case here, a rupture of the trachea, which nevertheless remains extremely rare.“, warns the medical director of TipsForWomens.
And be careful, “a rupture of the trench is not trivial because it can lead to emphysema under the skin, chest pain, respiratory distress or even a risk of death.the doctor further specifies.
Painkillers as treatment
The relatively lucky British patient only received paracetamol and codeine to ease his pain. He was also treated for his allergic rhinitis and had to avoid sport for two weeks.
Five weeks later, during a follow-up examination, he no longer had any lesions.
Doctors remind that this incident should serve as a warning and that you should never hold back a sneeze by pinching your nose and closing your mouth.