Picking your nose is even dirtier than you thought

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Come on, you know you do.

Whether you’re in the trusted company of your spouse or you’re having a quickie when you think no one’s watching, we all pick our noses. Other primates do it too.

The social stigma surrounding nose picking is widespread. But should we really, and what should we do with our snot?

We’re scientists who’ve researched environmental pollutants (in our homes, in our workplaces, in our gardens), so we have insight into what you’re actually sniffing out 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 the index finger and the nostril is quite good. But there’s a lot more than snot up there.

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During the roughly 22,000 breathing cycles a day, the mucus-forming mucus up there forms a critical biological filter to capture dust and allergens before they enter our airways, where they can cause inflammation, asthma, and other lung problems. long-term.

Cells in your nasal passage called goblet cells (named for their cup-like appearance) make mucus to trap viruses, bacteria, and dust that contain potentially harmful substances like lead, asbestos, and pollen.

Nasal mucus and its antibodies and enzymes are the body’s first line of defense against infection.

The nasal cavity also has its own microbiome. Sometimes these natural populations can become disturbed, leading to various conditions such as rhinitis. But in general, our nose microbes help repel invaders, fighting them on a battlefield of mucus.

Dust, microbes, and allergens captured in the mucus are eventually ingested as the mucus drips down the throat.

This is usually not a problem, but it can exacerbate environmental exposure to some pollutants.

For example, lead, a neurotoxin prevalent in house dust and garden soil, enters children’s bodies more efficiently through ingestion and digestion.

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Therefore, you could make particular environmental toxic exposures worse if you sniff or eat snot instead of blowing it.

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Staphylococcus aureus (Staphylococcus aureussometimes shortened 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 carriage).

One study found that nose picking is assocd S. aureus nasal transport, that is, the role of the nose socket in nasal transport may be causal in certain cases. Getting over the habit of picking your nose can help S. aureus decolonization strategies.

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

Antibiotics sometimes don’t work for Staphylococcus aureus. One article noted that increasing antibiotic resistance requires health care providers to assess patients’ nose-picking habits and educate them on effective ways to prevent finger-to-nose practices.

Nasal picking could also be a vehicle for transmission Streptococcus pneumoniaea common cause of pneumonia among other infections.

In other words, putting a finger in your nose is a great way to push germs further into your body or spread them around with your snotty finger.

There is also the risk of cracks and abrasions inside the nostrils, which can allow pathogenic bacteria to invade your body. Compulsive nose picking to the point of self-injury is called rhinotilexomania.

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Well, I chose. now what?

Some people eat them (the technical term is mucophagia, which means “mucus feeding”). Aside from the fact that eating mucus is disgusting, it means ingesting all those mucus-bound inhaled germs, toxic metals, and environmental pollutants discussed above.

Others wipe them on the nearest item, a small gift that someone else will discover. Gross and a good way to spread germs.

Some more hygienic people use a tissue to retrieve it and then throw it in a bin 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 carefully after blowing or picking your nose, because until the mucus has dried completely, infectious viruses can remain on your hands and fingers.

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Secretly, in the car or on napkins, we all do it. And the truth is that it is very satisfying.

But let’s honor the tireless work done by our remarkable noses, mucous membranes and sinus cavities, such amazing biological adaptations, and remember that they strive to protect you.

Your snoz is working overtime to keep you healthy, so don’t make it harder by getting your fingers dirty. Don’t be a snob: blow discreetly, dispose of the tissue carefully, then wash your hands.

Mark Patrick Taylor is Chief Environmental Scientist at EPA Victoria and Honorary Professor of Environmental Science and Human Health at Macquarie University in Sydney. Gabriel Filippelli is 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 theconversation.com.

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