How to (and How NOT to) Sneeze
and Blow Your Nose
© 2022 Health Realizations, Inc. Update
Sniffling, sneezing, coughing and blowing your nose probably seem like second nature to you -- and you likely don't put much thought into any of these "natural" occurrences. But maybe you should.
It is actually possible to injure yourself from coughing and sneezing in an improper way, and how you blow your nose may affect the duration of your illness.
When Sneezing and Coughing Turn Dangerous
Back injuries are one of the most common "side effects" of sneezing and coughing. Baseball player Sammy Sosa knows this first-hand. Back when he played for the Chicago Cubs, two sneezes sent his back into spasms, causing him to need a chair to support himself. The injury -- a sprained ligament in his lower back-- caused him to miss part of the season.
A vigorous coughing or sneezing attack can leave you with upper or lower back pain (or spasms) because of their forceful nature, not only on your entire torso but also on your abdomen. This pressure is so intense that it can actually herniate a weakened spinal disc.
How to "A-Choo" Safely
Right before you sense a cough or sneeze coming on, take a few seconds to position your back correctly. Doing so will protect your back and help keep any existing pain to a minimum.
Blowing Your Nose: Good or Bad?
Commonsense would tell us that blowing our noses during a cold would help remove some of the illness-causing bacteria or viruses contained in the mucus, thereby helping us to feel better faster. But it turns out this may not be entirely true.
According to Dr. Owen Hendley and a team of researchers from the University of Virginia and the University of Aarhus in Denmark, blowing your nose may actually cause mucus to be propelled back into the sinus cavities.
Not surprisingly, blowing your nose creates a huge amount of pressure in the nose -- over seven times more pressure than is produced by sneezing or coughing.
The researchers placed an opaque dye into the rear nasal cavities of 10 study participants in order to determine whether the fluid would enter the sinus cavities. Three of the volunteers were asked to cough, three were induced to sneeze and four blew their nose. After measuring the fluid's movement with a CT scan, Hendley said:
"In the those who coughed or sneezed, there was no dye in any of the sinuses. And in all four of those who did the nose-blowing, there was dye in one or more of the sinuses ... with a nose blow, given the amount of pressure and how long it went on, you could move one milliliter of nasal mucus into the sinuses."
The problem with this, Hendley pointed out, is that "if you do propel mucus into your sinuses during a cold -- which I'm suspecting you would -- then not only is it mucus but it's mucus that's likely to contain bacteria, virus and may also contain mediators."
"It appears that it's quite likely that if you do blow your nose, then there's a potential you could be worsening your cold," he said.
How to Correctly Blow Your Nose
Sometimes, though, the relief that comes from blowing your nose may be enough for you to risk a potentially longer cold duration. When you do blow your nose, there is a proper technique that can both minimize the risk of mucus traveling back up your sinuses and reduce your risk of injury.
When you consider that adults blow their noses an average of 45 times a day during the first three days of a cold, proper technique could make all the difference.
Back Care Boot Camp
Think Twice About Blowing Your Nose
A Moment of Science: How to Blow Your Nose
eHow.com: How to Blow Your Nose