Word to the wise: if you're in a quiet or crowded place where you may not feel comfortable letting off a loud sneeze, err on the side of caution and do it anyway. You definitely don't want to deal with the consequences of holding it in.
A 34-year-old unnamed man in Britain found this out the hard way when he pinched his nose and held his mouth closed to avoid letting out a colossal sneeze. As the air pressure mounted with nowhere to escape, he soon heard a popping noise in his throat. At first, it felt like nothing. Minutes later, he noticed throat swelling and awful pain.
Wisely, he ran over to the nearest emergency room, where doctors noticed a cracking sound coming from air bubbles in his neck. Tests turned up streaks of air in his retropharyngeal region and extensive surgical emphysema. In layman's terms, the poor fella basically ruptured his throat. As a result, the patient spent two weeks at England's Leicester hospital where he spent seven days on a feeding tube and was given antibiotics to ward off possible infection. As his condition progressed, he was able to eat soft food again.
While this is an extremely rare case, doctors warn that sneezing is one of the body's naturally occurring defense mechanisms against germs. In that case, you're better off not suppressing it. “When you sneeze, air comes out of you at about 150 miles per hour,” Dr. Anthony Aymat, director for ear, nose and throat services at London’s University Hospital Lewisham, told TIME (he did not treat the patient in question). “If you retain all that pressure, it could do a lot of damage and you could end up like the Michelin Man with air trapped in your body.”
Doctors who spoke to CNN advise that sneezing into a tissue or the crook of your elbow is always a great alternative if you've got a strong one coming.