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Why picking your nose or sniffing can be more dangerous than you think


The social stigma around nose picking is widespread. But should we do it or not? And if so, what is the safest way?


The Conversation

Come on, admit that you do.

Whether in company or when we think no one is looking, we all pick our noses at some point.

We are not alone in this: other primates do it too.

The social stigma around nose picking is widespread.

But should we do it or not?

And if so,

what should we do with our snot?

We are scientists who have investigated environmental contaminants in our homes, our workplaces, our gardens.

That's why we have some idea of ​​what we're really getting into when we pick our noses.

What's in a mucus?

Nose picking is a totally natural habit: children who have not yet learned the social norms realize very quickly that the fit between their index finger and one nostril is quite good.

But there's a lot more than snot up there.

During the approximately 22,000 daily respiratory cycles, the mucus that forms those mucus creates a critical biological filter to capture dust and allergens before they enter our airways, where they can cause inflammation, asthma, and other long-term lung problems.

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Cells in the nasal passage, called goblet cells because of their cup-like appearance, produce mucus to trap viruses, bacteria, and dust containing potentially harmful substances such as lead, asbestos, and pollen.

Nasal mucus, along with its antibodies and enzymes, are the first line of the immune system's defense against infection.

Picking your nose could be a vehicle for the transmission of, among other bacteria, Streptococcus pneumoniae, a common cause of pneumonia and other infections.Getty Images

The nasal cavity also has its own microbiome.

Sometimes these natural populations can be altered, causing various conditions such as rhinitis.

But in general, the microbes in our noses help repel invaders, fighting them off in a battlefield of mucus.

Dust, microbes and allergens captured in the mucus end up being ingested as that mucus trickles down the throat.

This is not usually a problem, but it can aggravate environmental exposure to some contaminants.

For example, lead (a neurotoxin found in house dust and garden soil) enters children's bodies most efficiently through ingestion and digestion.

Therefore, it can worsen exposure to certain environmental toxins if you sniff or eat mucus instead of blowing your nose.

What does science say about the risks of extracting mucus?

Staphylococcus aureus (

Staphylococcus aureus

, sometimes shortened to 

S. aureus

) is a germ that can cause a variety of mild or serious infections.

Studies show that it is often found in the nose, which is called nasal transport.

One study found that nose picking is associated with (and may be the cause of) nasal carriage of 

S. aureus


And he concluded that giving up the nose-picking habit can help 

S. aureus

decolonization strategies .

It is important.

Especially since nose picking may also be associated with an increased risk of staph transmission to wounds, where it poses a more serious risk.

It should not be forgotten that antibiotics sometimes do not work with Staphylococcus aureus.

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What's more, a recent document noted that growing antibiotic resistance requires health professionals to assess patients' nose-picking habits and educate them on effective ways to prevent such practices.

Nose picking could also be a vehicle for the transmission of 

Streptococcus pneumoniae

, a common cause of pneumonia among other infections.

All in all, sticking a finger up your nose is a great way to introduce more germs into your body, or spread them around with your snotty finger.

Additionally, there is a risk of sores and abrasions inside your nostrils, which can allow pathogenic bacteria to invade your body.

Compulsive nose picking to the point of self-harm is called rhinotillexomania.

I messed around, now what?

Some people eat them (the technical term is mucophagia, which means "mucus feeding").

Apart from the fact that the habit is gross, it involves ingesting all those germs linked to inhaled mucus, toxic metals and environmental pollutants that we have talked about before.

Others wipe them on the nearest object, a small gift to be discovered later by someone else.

A disgusting way to spread germs.

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There are much more hygienic people who use a tissue to pick it up and then throw it in a wastebasket or the toilet without further ado, another bad idea.

It is best to wash your hands very carefully after blowing or picking your nose, since until the mucus has completely dried, infectious viruses can remain on your hands and fingers.

There is no advice in the world that prevents picking your nose

Secretly, in the car or on napkins, we all do it.

And, truth be told, it's very satisfying.

But let's honor the tireless work of our remarkable noses, mucous membranes, and sinus cavities—such amazing biological adaptations—and remember that they work hard to protect us.

Our noses work overtime to keep us healthy, so let's not make it harder for them by sticking our dirty fingers in there.

And if you do eventually give in to temptation, do yourself a favor: blow your nose discreetly, dispose of the handkerchief carefully, and wash your hands afterwards.

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2022-08-05

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