Picking Your Nose Is Even Grosser Than You Thought

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Come on, you know you do.

Whether you’re in your spouse’s trusted company or quickly sneaking around when you think no one is watching, we all pick our noses. Other primates do it too.

Social stigma around nose picking is widespread. But should we really – and what should we do with our boogers?

We’re scientists who’ve studied environmental contaminants – in our homes, workplaces, gardens – so we have an idea of ​​what you’re really blocking up there when your finger is satisfactorily inserted into your sniffer.

Nose picking is a natural habit – children who have not yet learned social norms realize early on that the fit between their index finger and one nostril is quite good. But there’s a lot more than snot up there.

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During about 22,000 breath cycles per daythe booger-forming mucus up there forms 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.

Cells in your nasal passages called goblet cells (named for their cup-shaped appearance) generate mucus to trap viruses, bacteria and dust containing potentially harmful substances such as conductasbestos and pollen.

Nasal mucus and its antibodies and enzymes are the body’s first line immune defense system 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 in general, our nasal microbes help fend off invaders, fighting them off on a battlefield of mucus.

Dust, germs, and allergens captured in your mucus end up being ingested as that mucus flows down your throat.

This is usually not a problem, but it can exacerbate environmental exposure to certain contaminants.

For instance, conduct — a neurotoxin prevalent in house dust and garden soil — enters children’s bodies more effectively through ingestion and digestion.

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So you could be aggravating particular environmental toxic exposures if you sniff or eat boogers instead of blowing them.

What does science say about the risks of booger-mining?

Golden Staph (Staphylococcus aureussometimes abbreviated to S. aureus) is a germ that can cause a variety of mild to severe infections. Studies show that it is often found in the nose (this is called nasal porting).

A study found that nose picking is associated with S. aureus nasal carriage, meaning the role of nose swab in nasal carriage could be causal in some cases. Overcoming the Nose Picking Habit Could Help S. aureus decolonization strategies.

Nose picking can also be associated with increased risk transmission of Staphylococcus aureus to wounds, where it poses a more serious risk.

Sometimes antibiotics don’t work on Staphylococcus aureus. A paper Noted that growing antibiotic resistance requires healthcare providers to assess patients’ nose-picking habits and educate them on effective ways to prevent finger-to-nose practices.

Nose swabs could also be a transmission vector for Streptococcus pneumoniaea common cause of pneumonia among other infections.

In other words, sticking a finger up your nose is a great way to lock germs further into your body or spread them around your environment with your snotty finger.

There is also a risk of punctures and abrasions inside the nostrils, which can allow disease-causing bacteria to invade your body. Compulsive nose-curing to self-harm is called rhinotillexomania.

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Well, I chose. Now what?

Some people eat them (the technical term is mucosophagia, meaning “mucus feeding”). In addition to eating boogers being gross, it means ingesting all those inhaled mucus-related germs, toxic metals, and environmental contaminants discussed earlier.

Others wipe them on the nearest object, a small gift to be discovered later by someone else. Raw, and a great way to spread germs.

Some more hygienic people use a tissue to collect it and then throw it in a trash can or toilet.

This is probably one of the least worst options, if you really have to pick your nose. Just be sure to wash your hands very thoroughly after blowing your nose or digging in your nose, as until the mucus is completely dry, infectious viruses can stay on hands and fingers.

No advice in the world will stop you from digging

In secret, in the car or on towels, we all do it. And truth be told, it’s so satisfying.

But let’s pay tribute to the tireless work of our remarkable nasal, mucous and sinus cavities – such amazing biological adaptations – and remember that they strive to protect you.

Your snoz works overtime to keep you healthy, so don’t make it difficult for him by sticking your filthy fingers up there. Don’t be a chow – blow quietly, dispose of the tissue carefully, and wash your hands afterwards.

Mark Patrick Taylor is Chief Environmental Scientist at EPA Victoria and Honorary Professor of Environmental Sciences and Human Health at Macquarie University in Sydney. Gabriel Filippelli is Chancellor Professor of Earth Sciences and Executive Director of the Institute for Environmental Resilience at Indiana University. Michael Gillings is Professor of Molecular Evolution at Macquarie University.

This article was originally published on laconversation.com.

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