Don't stifle that sneeze

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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Allergy season is here, which means many of us are sneezing a little more often these days.  But the next time you get the urge to stifle one of your sneezes, you may want to reconsider. Cleveland Clinic Allergy Specialist Dr. Rachel Szekely says if you do, you can actually do damage.

"Occasionally, people will cause some damage to their eardrums, maybe their sinuses, if they stifle a very violent sneeze," she said.

Szekely says sneezing is a protective mechanism.  If you have to sneeze, it means something has gotten into your nose that your body wants to keep from getting to your sinuses or lungs.  So, your body tries to "sneeze it out," which can be forceful. In fact, droplets may travel at a rate of 100 miles per hour, which is why stifling a sneeze could potentially cause damage.

Szekely says another concern when stifling a sneeze is the risk for ear infection.

"So, your nose connects to your Eustachian tube, which connects to your middle-ear and so, you could also push things through the Eustachian tube and back into the middle ear. Mucus that's infected and you can get middle ear infections because of that," she explained.

Szekely says urban legends about stifling a sneeze are just that.  You can't cause an aneurysm or blow out a kidney, but she advises to always let your body take its natural course.

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