If you take public transportation on the regular, trying to avoid people who are coughing, sneezing, or even breathing cold and flu germs is a full time job. One Twitter user chronicled the saga of a guy who held in his sneeze on the train, much to the delight of his fellow passengers, and the thread quickly went viral as an example of how not to get your fellow commuters sick. Twitter user @jamiesusskind commended his fellow commuter in England for holding in his sneeze on a packed train car. And, he described the harrowing experience with suspense usually reserved for those old trailers about what was going to happen between Luke and Lorelai on the next episode of Gilmore Girls.
"His eyes are wide. His nostrils are flared. He's moving the top of his mouth in a circular motion and frantically crinkling and uncrinkling his nose. The poor bastard is about to sneeze," Susskind tweeted about the sneeze suppressor. "I can still see it in slow motion. It begins as a sort of spasm deep down inside the guy, an irrepressible wave of energy building from his abdomen, spreading up through his chest and neck, rushing to burst out through his nose."
Seriously, being in the direct line of fire of a sneezer is one of my worst nightmares. Susskind, who was outside of the danger zone, recounted the horrified reaction of the passengers who were unlucky enough to be in the path of sneezer's spray.
But then something unexpected happened that led Susskind to hail the would-be sneezer a hero for saving dozens of people from being covered in germs.
The teen drew a lot of attention for his anti-sneeze, which was loud enough to cause a commotion on the crowded train.
And, Susskind was so impressed by his self control that he gave the teen a nod of recognition often reserved for people who instinctively recognize another person who has survived a traumatic experience.
However, while holding in your sneeze might make you a public-transportation hero, for another British man, suppressing a sneeze had dire consequences. In a report titled "Snap, crackle and pop: when sneezing leads to crackling in the neck," BMJ Case Reports explained that a 34-year-old sneeze suppressor was hospitalized when holding in his sneeze went horribly wrong.
"He described a popping sensation in his neck and some bilateral neck swelling after he tried to halt a sneeze by pinching the nose and holding his mouth closed," researchers noted in the case report about the condition known as spontaneous perforation of the pharynx, or a hole in the neck.
While injury from sneeze suppression is rare, maybe being polite isn't worth spending time in the hospital. Seriously, self-care first. Because it turns out that holding in your sneeze might not make a difference anyway; just breathing can spread the flu, according to a new study.
BMJ Case Reports reported that this type of injury is most often seen after a blunt-force trauma to the neck, which apparently a strong sneeze is powerful enough to mimic. No, this is not a storyline on Grey's Anatomy (yet). And, yes, he blew a hole in his neck. If a hole in the neck is not your jam, when you have to sneeze don't try to be a hero. Let it rip (into your elbow or with your mouth otherwise covered).
This is an extreme example of how making yourself small to appease others can have dangerous unintended consequences. Even if you're on a crowded subway car, put your own safety first. Don't put being polite over your own health.
There's no word on whether the subway sneezer sustained any long-term injuries as a result of saving his fellow commuters from a jumble of germs. However, plenty of people on Twitter are reporting serious sneeze-related injuries such as broken ribs, dislocated discs, tailbone injuries, and more. So please, sneeze your little heart out. But, you can still be a hero by sneezing into your arm so everyone else doesn't get a sneeze shower.