News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

COVID And Other Good Reasons To Stop Picking Your Nose

Picking your nose can introduce viruses into the nose and, when done excessively, can damage the nasal cavity.
Picking your nose can introduce viruses into the nose and, when done excessively, can damage the nasal cavity.

Some call it a disgusting habit. But picking your nose can have serious consequences, especially now during the pandemic.

KERA’s Sam Baker talked about this with Dr. Ashleigh Halderman, an ear, nose and throat specialist with Parkland Hospital and an associate professor of laryngology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. She explained why it’s important now to cover your nose.


Why Picking Your Nose In The Pandemic Is A Bad Idea

You do not want to touch your mucous membranes with your hands when they're not clean. So essentially if you've touched a contaminated surface and then you get your finger in your nostril, that is a direct route in which any virus can enter into your body.

During flu season, it's kind of the same thing. You shouldn't touch your eyes, your nose, or even your mouth, because that can get you sick.

Why A Mask Over Your Nose Is Important

The nose is part of the transmission and entry of the virus into the body, especially the nasal cavity, where the majority of the virus kind of enters into our body and obviously can cause a lot of nasal symptoms.

You know, it's really fascinating. The virus actually binds to certain receptors in the nasal mucosa and that's how it kind of enters into our body.

Another Reason…

People can actually cause a lot of injury to their nose. I have on occasion, seen people with what's called a septal perforation or a hole in the septum — the kind of middle wall that separates the two sides of the nose from constant picking and digging at it.

Anything that's repeatedly traumatized could end up with some tissue loss or tissue damage. The very front part of the septum is cartilage and cartilage is notoriously bad at healing.

Best Nasal Care Practices

Blowing your nose with a tissue is very appropriate. Although I can actually see some people do damage to their nose from overly cleaning the nose with tissues. Constantly going at it with a tissue can cause little micro-tears in the skin and little scratches.

The nose is delicate. Even things made for the nose like tissues can scratch it. So, it's just best to not put anything inside the nose and be gentle with it.

If you're finding that you need to clean [your nose] a lot or you're having different issues, try saline-based gels, saline sprays, or saline rinses rather than going in there and digging after it because that could lead to a bigger problem.

Interview highlights were lightly edited for clarity.


Rhinotillexomania: psychiatric disorder or habit?

You Asked: Is It Bad To Pick Your Nose?

Why picking your nose isn't just gross — it's dangerous in the time of coronavirus

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.