When you sneeze, Germans say Gesundheit! The French say Santé! Many English speakers say God Bless you.

These fervent exhortations toward health or small prayers to the Almighty belie the fact that a sneeze is a routine or natural bodily expression of air from the lungs caused by foreign particles irritating the nasal mucosa.

But, not for me.

I sneeze so hard that I suffer severe muscle (and sometimes joint) pain after each eruption.

They hurt badly.  Therefore, I hate sneezing.

I also happen to think that all sneezes are disgusting.  How could it be otherwise?  After all, during a sneeze you launch an aerosol version of your spit and germs into the surrounding environment.  Nice, huh?

Getting back to my problem, I have not been able to find a medical diagnosis for it.  However, when I search I find that a whole lot of other people suffer from this affliction.

I know what you’re thinking — whack-oos.

I would think that too.

Except, for me and my fellow nuclear sneezers, this stuff is real.  Trust.

The good news: the extreme aching doesn’t last long.  It just hurts like a melon farmer for a few seconds.  Nevertheless, these nasal explosions are exhausting.

If I had my way, I’d never sternutate again.

By now, you’re probably saying: Sneezing.  You’re doing it wrong.

I wish it were just a matter of simple technique.

It’s not.  It’s an involuntary reflex.

Well, why not just block the sneeze by plugging your nose or by holding it in?

Turns out that bad stuff can happen if you hold sneezes in.  From

Believe it or not, the human sneeze has actually been clocked. A simple sneeze can travel at over 100 MPH – that’s right, even faster than many cars will travel. Think of trying to instantly stop a vehicle traveling at that high a rate of speed. While the mucus of a sneeze weighs thousands of pounds less than that car or truck, you still have a rocket propulsion system in your head.

Understand, too, that the car may fare far better than your poor head. Our skulls and their accessory organs and glands are packed in extremely tight quarters. The very kind of percussion involved in a suppressed sneeze can wreak serious injury, mostly to the structures within our heads.

For example, you can create a prolonged “ringing” sensation, or affect your hearing, which may or may not be temporary. There’s also a chance you burst an eardrum. You can actually tear blood vessels and muscles within the head. A sinus hemorrhage is also possible, and it’s reported that more than a few older people have actually sustained brain injury and possible death just out of fear of committing a social faux pas like a violent sneeze.

Sneezy - the least attractive dwarf.

There’s more danger possible as well. People have not only accidentally severely bitten their tongues during such an episode, they’ve severed parts of their tongues as well. Just because of the bacteria and organisms present in even the cleanest mouths can make the simple act of biting a chunk out of an inner cheek turn into a long recovery that must be watched carefully for infection.More than a few have broken teeth by the force with which your upper and lower jaw can snap shut in the process. Even ruptures within the throat may occur or a esophagus can be damaged.

Then there is the issue of a relatively rare yet still possible effect of a repressed sneeze or anything else that causes injury to the face: facial emphysema, a condition seen both in adults and children. Potentially deadly because it can restrict air supply, facial emphysema – either from a repressed sneeze, anesthesia, or some dental work – can create deep air spaces in the face and neck, sometimes extending as far as into the lungs. Signs are typically facial and/or neck swelling and discomfort and medical treatment should be sought immediately.


Thank you for your indulgence and patience during somewhat disgusting public service announcement.

Good health and God Bless You.

— The Major


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Becky on January 26, 2011 at 8:51 am

    I went through a (very) brief phase when I tried to block my sneezes. Several nosebleeds convinced me it wasn’t worth it. Now every time I hear someone doing that, I cringe.


  2. Posted by lisa on January 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    I too am a “violent” sneezer. Not fun. Maybe it’s hereditary?


  3. I must be weird–I actually enjoy a good sneeze–kinda like an enema for your nose! It can’t be good for you to supress a sneeze–your system is expelling something foreign. Next time, relax and enjoy it, Mike!


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