Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Medicine Science

Why You Shouldn't Stifle Your Sneeze (theguardian.com) 179

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: In a season where colds are rife, holding your nose and closing your mouth might seem like a considerate alternative to an explosive "Achoo!" But doctors have warned of the dangers of such a move after a man was found to have ruptured the back of his throat when attempting to stifle a sneeze. Medics say the incident, which they detail in the British Medical Journal Case Reports, came to light when a 34-year old man arrived in A&E with a change to his voice, a swollen neck, pain when swallowing and a popping sensation in his neck after he pinched his nose to contain an expulsion. The team took scans of the man's neck to investigate and discovered bubbles of air in the tissues at the back of the throat, and in the neck from the base of the skull to halfway down the man's back. That, they say, suggested a tear had occurred at the back of the throat as a result of increased pressure from the stifled sneeze, leading to air collecting in his soft tissues. The authors warn that blocking the nostrils and mouth when sneezing is dangerous, noting that while tearing of the throat tissue is rare, it could result in a ruptured eardrum or even a brain aneurysm.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Why You Shouldn't Stifle Your Sneeze

Comments Filter:
  • are there really people that stupid, and they need to read a warning not to do that? They are the ones that need "caution: hot, may cause burns" on drive-thru coffee cups? how about we forego warning them and instead hope they get brain aneurysm and die before they reproduce?

    • There is a much better alternate way to reduce a sneeze. Anyone paying attention will first notice an "about to sneeze" situation, and one aspect of that is an inhalation of air. All you need to do is close your throat to cut short the full inhalation. This can result in some temporary discomfort as your body continues to try to get air into the lungs, but the discomfort only lasts a moment because, after all, you are about to sneeze! Only now, because you restricted the amount of air involved, the ac
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Can confirm this works. A big sneeze can be really painful for me (arthritis and CFS) but this technique reduces it to something manageable.

        You can also do some prevention to avoid getting to this point. Be careful trimming your nose hairs, because if you trim them too much they stop keeping the sneeze-inducing dust out. If you live in a place where masks are socially acceptable they really help. In places where people don't wear masks, blowing your nose it also effective.

        I've tried various cleaning systems

        • Similarly, along with closing the throat you can push air up against the nasal passages just like you would when holding your breath or swimming to create pressure which prevents air/water from entering your nose.

          Side effects include almost never sneezing (there is a limit but I suppose that functions as a pressure release valve to keep you from damaging your throat), anecdotally the same probability of a second sneeze attempt as going through with the sneeze, and people saying "you can't hold that in like
      • I see others have discovered if you don't inhale the sneeze is pre-stifled. I can't totally close my throat so I have to pinch my nose anyway. I do find that the diaphragm spasm trying to inhale is painful and someone with brittle bones could fracture their ribs.

        I have also pulled a back muscle sneezing while twisting my body to the side while sneezing. Being I am retired at home I just get my shoulders straight, hug my ribs, and let it go.

    • by lucm ( 889690 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2018 @01:54AM (#55936557)

      They are the ones that need "caution: hot, may cause burns" on drive-thru coffee cups?

      You know that the old lady who got famous for that case was not driving, that the car wasn't moving, and that she got severe burns from the incident? Every time you parrot this hot coffee thing you're doing the dirty work of Karl Rove and his evil campaign to cap damages in civil cases.

      https://www.democraticundergro... [democratic...ground.com]

      • by aevan ( 903814 )
        It's.. coffee. Coffee is meant to be made with water around 91is degrees, 'off the boil', like black teas (greens are lower).

        Now if some of you prefer to have your drinks sit there for a while and cool off, fine. When I ask for fresh coffee though, I'd expect it to still be cooling down to drinking temps. But no, personal responsibility is hard, coffee should be served lukewarm. People already suing over nacho cheese and pizza cheese though, so screw accountability.

        Now if the cup had a fault and burs
        • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2018 @06:37AM (#55937301)

          It's.. coffee. Coffee is meant to be made with water around 91is degrees

          How you draw an espresso and what you put in your mouth are two very different things. Coffee is drawn at 91 degrees but pretty much as soon as it hits the bottom of the espresso mug it is safe to drink. Coffee made at home by percolator is not put in a pre-heated mug and also cools significantly the moment it is poured. Combine that with the fact that *most* coffee when served at restaurants or coffee shops is closer to 70 degrees when it's handed to you, and you have absolutely zero basis to expect your coffee to be that hot when you get it.

          That's the whole reason McDonalds lost. Their coffee was far hotter than any reasonable expectation. You're right, personal responsibility is hard, especially when faced with something unknown and unexpected.

          Now if the cup had a fault and burst, or the staff had spilled it on her, sure. Not the case here though.

          And yet she spent 8 days in hospital from a cup of coffee which is in history unheard of. It's easy to see why the courts agreed with her that accountability, personal responsibility and expectation was that McDonalds did something very wrong. You simply wouldn't have sustained such an injury at any other restaurant.

          • That's the whole reason McDonalds lost. Their coffee was far hotter than any reasonable expectation.

            That was part of it. The other part was that their own internal procedures forbade serving coffee at that temperature, because they engineered the cup the coffee went into and they knew that it would not hold up at that temperature, and that coffee is dangerous at that temperature. The local franchise operator willfully increased the pot hold temperature beyond the prescribed temperature in order to increase the pot hold time, which is what ultimately resulted in the injury to the woman's nether regions. Th

            • Even if they weren't in the court order it emerged that McDonald's own practices were to serve coffee at 82-88C. Per American association standards It is normal to be served as low as 71C.

              Tort law assumes fault based on reasonable expectations, and the caution hot coffee label actually predates the lawsuit. Starbucks and McDonalds both still serve coffee at that temperature and have compensated with ludicrously large warnings.

              As a non-American travelling to America and finding the reason people like Starbuc

              • by arth1 ( 260657 )

                Even if they weren't in the court order it emerged that McDonald's own practices were to serve coffee at 82-88C. Per American association standards It is normal to be served as low as 71C.

                Serve coffee that cold in most parts of Europe, and you will get the cup handed back to you. If you can't see tendrils dancing on the surface, it's just too cold.
                If you don't want it serving hot, wait or blow on it. It's not arcane secret knowledge, but something everyone should be expected to know.

                • If you don't want it serving hot, wait or blow on it. It's not arcane secret knowledge, but something everyone should be expected to know.

                  That's okay when you're in a civilized country that uses ceramic cups. When you get into some shithole that uses a lot of styrofoam, you have to turn down the temps because the cup doesn't maintain its rigidity otherwise. McDonalds knew this because they engineered both the coffee and the cup, which is part of the reason for their recommended serving temperature.

                • Serve coffee that cold in most parts of Europe, and you will get the cup handed back to you.

                  Erm no, no you don't. Firstly there's no way to draw an espresso into a cup that won't result it being around 75deg that doesn't also involve the server burning his hands, and secondly everywhere in Europe I've ordered a coffee I've been able to drink it when served, not some arbitrary cooling period after. If your coffee is higher than 75 you're not going to be able to taste much for the following few days.

                  If you don't want it serving hot, wait or blow on it. It's not arcane secret knowledge, but something everyone should be expected to know.

                  Blow on it? What kind of animal are you. You sound like you live in a messed up part of Europe. You s

        • You still haven't read about this case. McDonald's had been warned several times about the danger and they ignored it. Their coffee was served much hotter than other places. Most coffee will not cause severe enough damage from an accidental spill to require skin grafts.

          You need to find another example for an "all lawsuits are stupid" campaign.

          • bullshit, I know all the facts and the woman was a god damned moron.

            "On February 27, 1992, Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman from Albuquerque, New Mexico, ordered a 49-cent cup of coffee from the drive-through window of a local McDonald's restaurant located at 5001 Gibson Boulevard Southeast. Liebeck was in the passenger's seat of a 1989 Ford Probe which did not have cup holders. Her grandson parked the car so that Liebeck could add cream and sugar to her coffee. Liebeck placed the coffee cup between her

        • If you turned on the water in the sink of the bathroom and got third degree burns when you tested the temperature with your fingertip would you consider that an issue of personal responsibility?

          "It's.. coffee. Coffee is meant to be made with water around 91is degrees"

          91 degree liquid doesn't cause burns.
          • that's 91 degrees C, which is f'ing hot.

            the woman put the cup between her legs and pulled the top off toward herself, getting exactly what she deserved.

      • oh, you mean these facts? "On February 27, 1992, Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman from Albuquerque, New Mexico, ordered a 49-cent cup of coffee from the drive-through window of a local McDonald's restaurant located at 5001 Gibson Boulevard Southeast. Liebeck was in the passenger's seat of a 1989 Ford Probe which did not have cup holders. Her grandson parked the car so that Liebeck could add cream and sugar to her coffee. Liebeck placed the coffee cup between her knees and pulled the far side of the lid

    • Those same people voted a shaved orangutan with the mind of a 4 year old child in as "president" so apparently so.

  • Strangers expect you to cover it. You can't hand out a URL to the article after you blast them with boogers. Well, you could try, but they'll think you are a, well, nerd, and some may even pop you one.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Cover it, sure, don't try to lock it in. Sneeze into your bent elbow, for example.

      • by sheramil ( 921315 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2018 @12:02AM (#55936237)

        Cover it, sure, don't try to lock it in. Sneeze into your bent elbow, for example.

        And risk having people think I'm dabbing? No thanks! I'll just sneeze openly into the air and be a viral vector, the way nature intended.

        • No thanks! I'll just sneeze openly into the air and be a viral vector, the way nature intended.

          I never read an article suggesting doing such a thing in Nature.

          • I never read an article suggesting doing such a thing in Nature.

            It was in Nature Letters, which aren't as rigorously peer reviewed.

      • This is doubly useful because it also keeps effluvia off your mitts. Not nice if you are wearing short sleeves, though. Personally I use a big bandanna when I can. These come in handy for lots of stuff, including sneezes, but especially to dry my hands in places that lack towels. Also... Along the same lines... Hard honking nose blows can be counter productive -- albeit satisfying. The best method is to gently blow one nostril at a time while sealing the other. Hard blows actually send material deeper into
        • This is doubly useful because it also keeps effluvia off your mitts. Not nice if you are wearing short sleeves, though. Personally I use a big bandanna when I can. These come in handy for lots of stuff, including sneezes, but especially to dry my hands in places that lack towels. Also... Along the same lines... Hard honking nose blows can be counter productive -- albeit satisfying. The best method is to gently blow one nostril at a time while sealing the other. Hard blows actually send material deeper into the sinus cavity as well as out. IANAD, but I dated any number of nurses -- back in the day.

          Best not to dry your hands with a bandanna which was previously used to contain a sneeze (unless it's been washed since, of course); it just transfers the germs to your hands - which was the whole point of using a bandanna in the first place!

          • Yeah, if you're giving it to someone else to use. You can't contaminate yourself with germs you expel from your own body. It's your hands you want to wash.
            • Yeah, if you're giving it to someone else to use. You can't contaminate yourself with germs you expel from your own body. It's your hands you want to wash.

              The point is that if you have germs on your hands (even if it's your own germs), you will pass them on - touching door handles, faucet handles, shaking hands, etc. You obviously do want to wash your hands soon.

              When I was a missionary in Brazil, it was a mission rule to carry trial size containers of hand sanitizer.

          • Well duh.

            Why would I dry my hands with a banana?
            • Well duh. Why would I dry my hands with a banana?

              Look at the parent post by bdwoolman:

              This is doubly useful because it also keeps effluvia off your mitts. Not nice if you are wearing short sleeves, though. Personally I use a big bandanna when I can. These come in handy for lots of stuff, including sneezes, but especially to dry my hands in places that lack towels

              Being ./ I couldn't tell if sarcasm was included or not.

    • I was in an airplane, had my hands full and stifled a sneeze. The semi-slipped disc that resulted meant a few days of quite intense pain. It got fixed by connective tissue treatments but I didn't enjoy the overnight stay in the hotel and my wife had to carry all the luggage.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    same thing.

    What? Women don't get hyenias?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      > What? Women don't get hyenias?

      No, they don't want to let a dingo eat their babies.

  • I find the most controllable and least painful way to handle an unwanted sneeze is to press the tongue against the roof of the mouth, in the same way as when you imitate a machine gun. It makes a weird noise but at least it works in private . . . is there a (safe) silent way to deal with a sneeze?
    • Don't resist a sneeze, just go with it, if you want to minimize it. Open your mouth wide, open your throat, remove all obstructions. My sneezes this way just sound like loud fast exhalations. Instead of ah-choo it's a-hooo.

      And do all this into your armpit. The loud part of the sneeze is the pressure buildup releasing. Don't provide any resistance, no pressure buildup. I bet it reduces droplet projection quite a lot to sneeze this way too.

      To a lot of people this isn't even recognizable as a sneeze. Th

    • I was with you until you said machine gun. I read decades ago, and it has worked with high probability for me, to simply press the tongue firmly against the roof of the mouth. I can't imagine that pulsing it like a machine gun would help at all - try just keeping it there firmly, applying pressure to the nasal cavities so they don't keep preparing you with an inhale, and the tingle often goes away.
  • Idiots! (Score:5, Informative)

    by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Monday January 15, 2018 @11:48PM (#55936161) Homepage

    Sneeze in the inside of your elbow with it placed just above the nose. Whatever doesn't get absorbed by the clothes or arm, will get directed downward. This shouldn't be complicated, but apparently there's enough morons in the world where it needs to be taught. FFS

    • Re:Idiots! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2018 @12:11AM (#55936273) Homepage Journal
      Yep, this is correct. "Sneeze like Dracula". This minimizes the aerosolized viruses and the exposure onto commonly-touched surfaces (just don't cross your arms afterward). Standard CDC advice. In 20 years of being a med student and doctor, I've gotten the flu once. The modern proliferation of alcohol-soaked hand wipes and foams has helped., probably as much as the vaccine (which has been unfortunately ineffective this year).
    • Sneeze in the inside of your elbow with it placed just above the nose. Whatever doesn't get absorbed by the clothes or arm, will get directed downward.

      What and risk not wiping out all of humanity with an airborne strain of Ebola? That would just make all the monkey bites for nothing! ;)

    • Armani dressed morons

    • Sneeze in the inside of your elbow with it placed just above the nose. Whatever doesn't get absorbed by the clothes or arm, will get directed downward.

      I do this all the time, just make sure nobody is sitting down nearby.

      Sorry Bob! :*(

    • by alteran ( 70039 )

      Or don't breath in before the sneeze.

      No air, no sneeze.

    • I didn't know this was a thing. I just do it anyway. That way I'm not sneezing into my hands and then getting that sneeze all over the subway poles I touch, door handles, etc.

      Sneezing into your elbow pit just contains the damage and unless someone grabs your arms before you get a chance to wash them, contains the problem.
  • The story explicitly says "such complications from sneezing were so uncommon that there was no evidence in general that individuals should not hold one in." -- the headline directly contradicts the story. Here's what we actually learn: There existed a single patient who tore the back of his throat, purportedly as part of stifling a sneeze. Okay.

    I think Slashdot editors should not post stories about science if the headline is inaccurate or if they themselves lack the scientific literacy to evaluate the claim

  • Supposedly (according to Suetonius, IIRC), one of the Ceasars declared that it's OK to fart at dinner parties, after one of his guests hurt himself trying to hold one back so he wouldn't have to leave the room.

  • Try pushing the tip of your nose next time you're about to sneeze. On myself and the few people I've tested it on, it suppresses the sneeze. You won't feel that great after, but you won't sneeze.

    From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense that there would be an "off" switch for a noisy and messy reflex like a sneeze. If you're hiding from a predator and don't have any way to suppress your sneeze, you die.
    • by lucm ( 889690 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2018 @02:04AM (#55936571)

      From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense that there would be an "off" switch for a noisy and messy reflex like a sneeze. If you're hiding from a predator and don't have any way to suppress your sneeze, you die.

      That's not how evolution works. AR-15 and Desert Eagles are the answer to the threat of predators, not hiding and pinching your nose to avoid sneezing, pussy.

    • I notice that when my kids sneeze, a world of snot shoots out of their nose and generally forms two rather attractive lines down to their mouth (whereupon a tongue often appears to turn it into a tasty snack). Either way, it seems terribly effective - whatever was in their nose that caused the tickle leaves the building in short order.

      I notice that almost no adult seems to have anywhere near that level of effectiveness - lots of noise, and no real action. Maybe a need to blow their nose, or sniff a bit afte

  • by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2018 @01:38AM (#55936513)
    To get hurt just sneeze normally. I pulled a damn back muscle once on a particularly large sneeze and it was nearly a pain in the ass for two weeks.
    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      To get hurt just sneeze normally. I pulled a damn back muscle once on a particularly large sneeze and it was nearly a pain in the ass for two weeks.

      To be fair, this usually only happens to people with weak and tight core/lower back muscles...

  • In what you universe is this "news that matters"?
  • So one guy hurts himself and that means it's not safe for every single other person on the planet? It's still way better to just hold it in and not spread your germs.
    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      So one guy hurts himself and that means it's not safe for every single other person on the planet? It's still way better to just hold it in and not spread your germs.

      If you're really that concerned, wear a mask.

  • In our country, people dont stifle the sneeze. Even they make some funny sounds with that sneeze. It's normal in my country
  • My father got a hernia stifling a sneeze.
  • Don't try to hold your poop and pee indefinitely. Slow news day eh Slashdot?
  • by kackle ( 910159 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2018 @10:26AM (#55938123)
    Decades ago, I taught myself to sneeze entirely through my mouth to prevent the nostril mess afterwards (adding the Dracula elbow in more recent times). Since I usually only sneeze "once at a time", I wonder about sneezing's effectiveness regarding/correlation with the nose. I've been studying the vagus nerve lately (it innervates SO much within the body), that I wonder whether IT is involved in sensing and dealing with pulmonary/esophageal irritation more than anything else...
    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

      I do this mouth-only sneeze thing naturally; in fact I can't sneeze through my nose. Apparently I'm wired weird.

  • by Oligonicella ( 659917 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2018 @01:32PM (#55939649)
    I already have a ruptured right eardrum. If I suppress a sneeze it causes an astonishingly loud (only to me, I realize) and painful whistle. So my sneezes sound more like cannon shots.
  • Sounds like good advice. But then my very loud sneezes will wake up my wife. :-(

"Turn on, tune up, rock out." -- Billy Gibbons

Working...