While everyone is busy washing their hands and coughing in their sleeves, there is an important personal hygiene issue which has been ignored as part of the lifestyle advice for COVID-19 prevention. This oversight has been inadvertent, but since this is a taboo topic, it is typically overlooked due to cultural discomfort, despite its ubiquity in practice.
Indeed, the reader may be currently engaging in this behavior as he or she reads this.
This practice, often done subconsciously, has the potential to improve breathing. On the other hand, it has the potential to spread disease and increase exposure to coronavirus and other pathogens.
Of course, we’re referring to nose-picking.
Many a nose is stuffed by plugs of mucus, aka, boogers. The effective removal of these excretions and accretions opens up the nasal passage, reducing the resistance to breathing and improving the ability to oxygenate your blood.
Keep in mind that nose-picking is natural, and is a behavior shared with other primates. Unfortunately, the culture has its hand in everything, including our noses. Most people are driven to private sanctuary to properly and thoroughly pick their noses, while others who display this behavior are shunned. Rarely is the act of nose-picking discussed, including by those who instruct the public on health matters.
Young children, who are extremely apt to engage in digital nasal exploration, are deterred from engaging in this practice, instead of being instructed on the proper way to pick a nose. The culture also makes clear that this behavior is taboo, disgusting, and should never be discussed. Some of these poorly educated youths grow up to be have rhinotillexomania, sneaking away into dark corridors and passageways to nasally gratify their greedy fingers.
The fact is that over 90% of people pick their noses, according to scientific research, and a large percentage eat the extracted material, something called mucophagy.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to keep hands away from your face, in order to lower the chance of contacting virus to mucus membranes. This means that nose-picking is a problem during pandemics, especially since many people pick their noses unconsciously.
However, public health officials are not telling people about this specific hazard of nose-picking. You know they would advise nasal abstinence if you asked them, but they won’t be initiating the conversation. As a result, some people will insert their dirty hands into their noses, inoculating themselves with the virus.
Obviously, it would be in the best interests of public health to declare a complete nose-lockdown and picking prohibition, possibly enforced by using cellphone camera surveillance. Facial recognition software can be programmed to identify faces with fingers up their noses, sending the picker a text message advising nasal abstinence. However, we all know how prohibitions don’t work as well in practice as in theory.
Given that people will pick their noses, despite the pressure, it makes sense to educate people on how to pick their noses safely and effectively. Keep in mind that mucus is good. It catches debris and helps filter air. The problem is with too much mucus lining your nasal cavity that it actually reduces the opening, giving resistance to air flow.
Here are some guidelines to consider.
- Clip your fingernails. You want to gently budge the booger out, not scrape it out. Scraping creates openings for bacteria and viruses to enter your tissues.
- Consciously focus on what you are doing. Picking your nose habitually or because you’re bored and are mindlessly occupying your hands is not proper nose-picking. Pay attention.
- Wash your hands before you pick. Make sure there is no dirt underneath your fingernails, even if they are cut short.
- Don’t go deeper than your finger can reach. You’re just cleaning out the part of the nose you can see in a mirror; you’re not doing surgery.
- Get to know your nose. So long as you’re up there, consider giving yourself a nasal massage.
- Dispose of the booger properly. This means don’t pet the dog, or rub it off on the arm of the couch. Never flick it at someone unless they give prior consent.
- Wash you hands again. No need to share your nasal contents with others.
- Do not insert anything into your nose besides your finger. Avoid inserting cotton swabs, tweezers, or other hard objects.
- Be aware that boogers are excretions that contain air impurities, allergens, and dust. If you choose to consume the booger, you’re on your own. Bon appetite!
Most importantly, this information makes you aware that nose-picking is something you need to be thinking about. Be careful about picking your nose so the coronavirus doesn’t pick you as the next victim.