What happens to your body when you hold in a sneeze

Everyone sneezes, but some sneezes can be particularly loud. You might be tempted to try to stifle a sneeze if you don't want everyone to stare at you (particularly if you're in a quiet place like the library or church), but as it turns out, holding in a sneeze might not be the best idea. 

A sneeze is your body's way to forcefully (and uncontrollably) expel air from the lungs through the nose and mouth (via MedlinePlus). This is often caused by irritation from particles in and around the lining of the nasal cavity, and it can also be inconvenient and noisy. Causes include allergies, the common cold, influenza, or environmental triggers such as dust, dry air, spicy foods, powders, and in some cases, strong emotions. 

So, sneezing is often involuntary, but sometimes you can hold one in — or, at least, you can try to. What will happen, though, if you try to shut a sneeze down if you've already started to go through the process? According to LiveScience, you can actually injure yourself if you try to keep a sneeze from happening, although it's pretty rare to do so. 

Holding in a sneeze can actually cause injury

Alan Wild, a head and neck surgeon and assistant professor of otolaryngology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, told LiveScience that there are a few things that can happen if you try to stop a sneeze that's already on its way out. It can injure your diaphragm, break a blood vessel in your eye, or force air into your Eustachian tubes which can lead to a blown-out ear drum. You can also weaken a blood vessel in your brain which can then pop due to a temporary elevation in blood pressure.

"The risk of an injury is low but you might just be the unlucky one," said Wild. "Some also are concerned that stifling the sneeze is just a temporary outcome that whatever provoked the sneeze is still present and will cause another sneeze shortly."

Sneezing is a natural part of life, and although you can try to hold in a sneeze, maybe it's best to just let it fly no matter how loud it will be — cover your face, though, so you don't spray everyone with your droplets.