When you feel like sneezing, let it out. Yes, that's what experts say. Although it is instinctive to stifle the sneeze for controlling the spread of germs, holding it in can cause more harm.

Sneezing is the body's natural mechanism to get rid of irritants in the nose and make the passage clear of bacteria and viruses. Sneezing is one of the most common symptoms of cold. It can also be triggered by pollutants, germs, dust, pollen or animal dander.

When an irritant enters the nose, an electric signal is sent to the brain that says the nose needs to clear itself. In a fraction of a second, the body leaps into action and prepares itself for the sneeze. The muscles tense up, the tongue moves to the roof of the mouth and the eyes are closed in response to the signal.

Holding in the sneeze increases the pressure inside the respiratory system to around five to 24 times more than the pressure caused by the sneeze. This can lead to:

1. Eardrum rupture: When a sneeze is suppressed, some air enters the eustachian tube in the ear that connects the middle ear to the eardrum. This can put pressure on the eardrum and cause rupturing and a loss of hearing. In some cases, the ruptured eardrum heals without treatment within a few weeks, while others might need surgery.

2. Ear infection: Suppressing a sneeze can redirect the bacteria that needs to be expelled back to the ear and cause painful middle ear infections.

3. Damage to nerves: Increased pressure due to a suppressed sneeze can cause damage and rupture to the blood vessels in the eyes, nose or eardrums.

4. Brain damage: Holding in a sneeze can even cause a life-threatening injury to the brain that can lead to bleeding in the skull.

5. Damage to ribs, throat and diaphragm: When pressurized air traps in the chest, it can cause damage to the ribs, throat and diaphragm. It is a life-threatening situation that needs immediate medical attention.

Interesting facts about sneezing

1. Do you know that you can't sneeze in sleep? This is because the nerves that control sneeze are also asleep.

2. Apart from the irritants, other factors like sunshine, bright light, exercise, orgasm and plucking eyebrows can also trigger a sneeze.

3. A single sneeze can push out around 100,000 germs into the air at a speed of up to 100 miles per hour.

4. People often sneeze in succession because the first sneeze may not get rid of the irritant from the nose. It is the body's mechanism to safely expel the irritant from the nose.

5. Contrary to the popular myth the heart does not stop when you sneeze. However, sudden changes in pressure alter the blood flow, which can change the rhythm of the heartbeat.