The morning routine in our friary is that half the house are early risers and the other half…. not so much. One of the early rising friars retrieves the newspaper from the front lawn and reads while having breakfast. Later after morning prayer, the other friars will read the paper during their morning meal. Me? Maybe I glance at the paper. Today was one of those days. In the Tuesday “Health and Science” section was the following headline: “Nose picking is even grosser than you feared.” To read or not to read, that is the question. Will this be something we need to know…. or not?The article contained lots of science about the role cells in the nasal passage traps viruses, bacteria, and dust containing potentially harmful substances such as lead, asbestos and pollen. Turns out that the nasal mucus and its antibodies and enzymes are the front line of the immune system against infections. Who knew that the nasal mucus was a battlefield with the slain and conquered being buried in the gastric graves of the stomach or ejected into waiting handkerchiefs.
Of course the problem is that even as children we discover that the index finger seems well sized to fit right up into the battleground area. Turns out that such, shall we say, “mining operations” can have health consequences. Should “mining operations” cause abrasions, then you have opened up a bypass of the natural defenses that might allow pathogens to successfully invade. Or the mining tools (aka finger) might transfer staphylococcus areus from the battleground (where it is on our side) to areas outside the nasal arena where it is not on our side. This raises the chance of staph infections of a type not so easily overcome with antibiotics. Then there is always transmission of streptococcus pneumoniae.
Did you need to know all this? Maybe, but in any case your mom was correct about picking your nose being socially unacceptable and poor manners – as well as the instructions to use a tissue (discretely) and wash your hands. …and the advice from dad: always carry two handkerchiefs: one for you and one to offer to another. Parental advice now backed up with science!