Wiping your nose with your finger increases the likelihood of Alzheimer’s – DW – 03/18/2023

“Pull that finger out of your nose!” is a warning everyone has heard early in life. Extracting boogers is a hobby that children often and unceremoniously engage in.

For them, it’s like sucking your thumb, something you do when boredom hits. Or for an exploratory spirit, in order to discover what is in the dark tunnels beyond the nostrils, and what can be extracted from there. In fact, it’s a perfectly natural activity – but one that also has its dangers.

The removal of dried nasal mucus – in familiar language: snot, snot, mucus or burrié – has been an intermittent object of research. In a study published in October 2022 on the platform natureAustralian scientists found in mice that exploration of the nasal passages can take the bacterium Chlamydia pneumoniae to the brain, through the olfactory nerves.

In addition, they proved a correlation between infection of the central nervous system with this pathogen and Alzheimer’s disease, because when Chlamydia circulates through the body, brain cells react, producing beta amyloid protein, which in certain concentrations is an indicator of the disease. neurodegenerative.

For some children, picking boogers is an alternative to thumb sucking.Photo: imago stock&people

A delicate defense organ

In the meantime, however, excessive nose picking has been associated with other diseases as well. Numerous bacteria inhabit human hands, and virtually no one disinfects their finger before sticking it in the nostril. If immunity is weakened and the mucosa is damaged, the microbes can end up in the brain, causing bacterial meningitis. Typical symptoms are fever, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, and mental confusion.

This form of meningitis can also lead to complications such as brain damage, heart attack, seizures and hearing loss. In general, medical treatment is with intravenous antibiotics.

In the human upper nasal cavity there is a filigree structure, formed by 5 million to 10 million olfactory cells. Mucus filters pathogens and harmful substances from the air, such as pollen or dust, before they reach the respiratory organs, protecting against infections.

In addition, mucus moistens the breathed air, preventing it from drying out. Bacteria and viruses are trapped in the nasal mucosa, to be later transported out of the nose through the nasal hairs.

Poking the nose too deeply, too long or too aggressively can damage the delicate mucosa, causing injuries resulting not only in bleeding, but even in the rupture of the nasal septum. The consequence is a narrowing of the nose canals, compromising breathing. Depending on the extent of the damage, a surgical solution is required, in the form of a septoplasty.

doctor Evil, the world is watching you!Photo: picture-alliance/Mary Evans Picture Library

men are more snotty

In rare cases, digital exploration of the nostrils can develop into the obsessive-compulsive disorder that psychologists call rhinotilexomania. The (bad) habit becomes uncontrollable, manifesting itself mainly in situations of nervousness or insecurity. Therefore, taking snot all the time can also be an indication of psychic problems.

As a rule, adults pick their nose when they are not being watched. In addition to the four walls of the home, a much appreciated crime scene is the automobile itself. While waiting for the light to turn green, many drivers take the opportunity to perform this debatable nasal hygiene.

But here there is a difference between the genders: men poop far more often (62%) than women (51%). This was at least the result of a query carried out by the author Christoph Drösser for his book Wie wir Deutschen ticken (How we Germans work).

However, the hidden figure is possibly much higher: after all, what adult admits without problems that, from time to time, an unsociable little or index finger gets lost up the nose?

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