What to do with your boogers, according to science

What to do with your boogers, according to science

Come on, admit that you do. Whether in the company of someone or secretly, when we think that no one is looking at us, we all pick our noses. And primates do too. The social stigma around cleaning the nose is widespread. But do we really have to… and where do we get our snot?

As scientists who have researched environmental pollutants, in our homes, workplaces, gardens, we have a clear idea of ​​what you are really dealing with when you smugly swipe your finger down your nostril. Here’s what you need to know before you take action.

A necessary biological filter

Nose picking is a completely natural habit: children, who have not yet learned social norms, quickly realize that the compatibility between a finger and a nostril is quite good. But there is much more than snot there.

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

The cells in your nasal passages, called goblet cells (because of their cup shape), produce mucus to trap viruses, bacteria, and dust that contains potentially harmful substances like lead, asbestos, and pollen. Nasal mucus and its antibodies and enzymes make up the immune system on the front line against infections.

The nasal cavity also has its own microbiome. Sometimes these natural populations can be disturbed, resulting in various conditions such as rhinitis. But overall, the microbes in our noses help fend off invaders, fighting them off on a battlefield of mucus.

Overcoming the habit of touching noses could thus facilitate decolonization strategies
staphylococcus aureus.

Captured dust, germs, and allergens end up being ingested as the mucus drains down the throat. And while that’s not usually a problem, it can exacerbate environmental exposure to certain pollutants. For example, lead, a neurotoxin found in house dust and garden soil, most effectively enters children’s bodies through ingestion and digestion.

If you smell or eat mucus instead of expelling it, you risk increasing your exposure to certain toxic elements present in your environment.

The risks of hunting

Staphylococcus aureus (staphylococcus aureus, sometimes shortened to S. aureus) is a germ that can cause a range of mild to severe infections. Studies show that it is often found in the nose (this is called nasal carriage), and one study found that nose picking is associated with nasal carriage of S. aureus. Overcoming the nose-picking habit could facilitate S. aureus decolonization strategies.

Nose picking may also be associated with an increased risk of transmitting Staphylococcus aureus to wounds, where it poses a more serious risk. Especially since antibiotics do not always work in the fight against this bacteria. An article has shown that increasing antibiotic resistance therefore requires doctors to assess their patients’ nose-picking habits and educate them on effective ways to prevent this practice.

Nose washing could also be a vector of transmission of steotococcus pneumonia, a common cause of pneumonia (among other infections). In other words, sticking a finger up your nose is a great way to carry germs further into your body, or spread them around your environment with your questionably clean finger.

Compulsive nose picking, to the point of mutilation (rhinotile mania), also means risking injuries and abrasions inside your nostrils, which can allow pathogenic bacteria to invade your body.

What to do with your mucus?

Some eat them (the technical term is mucophagia, which means “eating mucus”). Aside from the fact that eating mucus looks gross, it’s like ingesting all the germs in mucus, those toxic metals, and those environmental pollutants we talked about earlier.

Others wipe their stained fingers on the object closest to them, leaving a small gift for someone else to discover. It’s disgusting… but mostly it’s a great way to spread germs. Some, more hygienic and respectable, use a handkerchief to collect everything, before throwing it in the trash or in the toilet.

This is probably one of the least bad options, if you have to pick your nose at all costs. Just be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after blowing your nose or picking your nose, because until the mucus has completely dried, infectious viruses can remain on your hands and fingers.

The remarkable work of the nose.

Secretly, in the car or on napkins… The truth is that we all indulge in this practice. And it must be said: it is really satisfying. But let’s pay tribute to the tireless work of our remarkable noses, snot and sinus cavities, to these amazing biological adaptations. And let’s not forget that they are trying to protect us.

Your nose is working overtime to keep you healthy, so don’t make it harder by sticking your dirty fingers in it. Don’t play spoilsport. Blow gently, dispose of the tissue carefully and wash your hands immediately afterwards.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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