In a report released on Tuesday, the journal BMJ Case Reports detailed the bizarre and somewhat frightening case of a 34-year-old British man who ruptured his throat by suppressing a particularly powerful sneeze. The man, described as “previously fit and well” attempted to politely contain his sneeze by “pinching the nose and holding his mouth closed”, which you are apparently not supposed to do.
The force of the sneeze backfired into his throat and perforated his pharynx, the part of the throat right above the larynx and esophagus. He was unaware of the damage initially, but after realizing that his voice had changed and his throat hurt when he swallowed, he knew something was wrong. His neck began to swell up as well, and whenever he moved his head, he experienced an unsettling sensation of popping and crackling.
The man went to the emergency department at Britain’s Leicester Royal Infirmary where doctors were able to diagnose his condition. X-rays revealed that the sneeze had ruptured his throat allowing air bubbles to make their way into the tissue and muscles of his chest, a condition known as subcutaneous emphysema and pneumomediastinum, which caused the popping sensation from his neck to extend all the way to his rib cage. Doctors had to take action quickly as the rupture left the man at risk for complications such as deep neck infection.