Snot and You: A (Slightly Gross) Guide

Nothing says “Winter” quite like a runny nose. But did you know that your runny nose is helping you stay healthy?

It may not be the first thing you think of when you’re blowing your nose, but the snot your body produces is actually going to good use. Known medically as a “Protective Bodily Fluid,” the mucus produced by your body is used to neutralize harmful foreign materials, such as dirt and bacteria.

Mucus is produced by glands in your respiratory system. From the point of production, the mucus travels through your nasal cavity, coating the inside of your nostrils and sinuses with a protective layer of material that keeps bacteria and viruses from gaining a foothold in the sensitive tissue of your respiratory passages. Not only does mucus produce a physical barrier that prevents foreign bodies from irritating or attacking your nasal passages, but mucus also contains a number of powerful antibodies that are designed to attack the organisms that can cause your body harm.

Once the mucus in your nose serves its purpose, it is moved from your nasal passages to your stomach by a series of tiny hairs called ‘cilia.’ There, the harmful particles and organisms that your mucus may have caught are neutralized by the powerful acid your body produces.

As an essential process in protecting your body, it’s important to allow the mucus a chance to do its job. Taking too many decongestants may reduce the production of mucus in your body, allowing harmful foreign bodies access to your respiratory passages and preventing your nasal cavities from receiving a healthy level of moisture. Likewise, if your body is experiencing irregularities in mucus production—such as overabundant or discolored mucus—it is important to contact your healthcare provider.

During periods of increased mucus production, such as cold weather or a respiratory illness, it is important to maintain a good level of hydration. This allows your body the chance to replace the mucus it’s lost, and continue the process of keeping your body safe from dirt, bacteria, and viruses.

If you have any questions about the snot your body is making, take a look at our SNOT (that is, Sino Nasal Outcome Test.) It can act as a rough guide to the health issues your mucus may be telling you about. For any other questions, or for more information on ear, nose, or throat health issues, please contact us. We’re here to answer any questions you may have.

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