If you're feeling a bit snotty, it's only natural to pick your nose. Besides, it's not the worst feeling pulling out a huge booger. But new research suggests it could lead to something more sinister.
According to a study published in the European Respiratory Journal, picking your nose can potentially spread dangerous pneumonia-causing bacteria.
Scientists from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine recruited 40 adult volunteers. They divided them into four groups, exposing them to bacterias via different hand to nose methods.
Results found that despite the different modes of transport or whether exposure to the bacteria was in a wet or air dried environment, participants were equally likely to get the bacteria in their noses.
“Pneumococcal infection is a major cause of death around the world, and it is estimated that it is responsible for 1.3 million deaths in children under five years annually,” says lead researcher Dr. Victoria Connor, a clinical research fellow at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Royal Liverpool Hospital.
“The elderly and people with other causes of impaired immunity, such as chronic illness, are also at an increased risk of pneumococcal infections.”
“It might not be realistic to get children to stop picking, poking and rubbing their noses, and presence of the bacteria can sometimes boost the immune system of children and can reduce their chances of carrying it again later in life, so it is unclear if completely reducing the spread of pneumococcus in children is the best thing, continues Connor.
“But for parents, as this research shows that hands are likely to spread pneumococcus, this may be important when children are in contact with elderly relatives or relatives with reduced immune systems.
“In these situations, ensuring good hand hygiene and cleaning of toys or surfaces would likely reduce transmission, and reduce the risk of developing pneumococcal infection such as pneumonia.”
“This pilot study is the first to confirm that pneumococcus bacteria can be spread through direct contact, rather than just through breathing in airborne bacteria,” adds Professor Tobias Welte, President of the European Respiratory Society.