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Can Nose Picking Really Cause Alzheimer's

One study suggests digging for gold may open the door to damaging bacteria.

Not that we’re judging, but if you might want to stop picking your nose. A study just published in Scientific Reports found that you can damage the inside of your nose during a quick rummage, creating an opportunity for bacteria linked to dementia to take hold.

Researchers from Griffith University in Australia learned that when you dig for gold, it creates an opportunity for bacteria to infect the olfactory nerve (which runs between the brain and nose and helps detect smell), the trigeminal nerve (which helps detect sensation on the face), and the olfactory bulb (a part of the brain that processes smell).

What Did the Study Find?

For starters, it’s worth noting the study was done on mice, not humans. The researchers took a bacteria called chlamydia pneumoniae and rubbed it inside the nostrils of some rodents (and you thought your job was bad). They found that mice infected in this way led to a “dysregulation” of “key pathways” that are associated with the development of Alzheimer’s

Not all mice were equally susceptible to these infections. Mice with damage to the nasal epithelium, the tissue running along the roof of the nose, were more likely to get chlamydia pneumoniae infections in the peripheral nerve and the olfactory bulb.

Not only that, but the researchers found a link between chlamydia pneumoniae and Alzheimer’s in the mice—meaning that nasal epithelium damage may lead to both dementia and Alzheimer’s.

In other words, injuring the inside of your nose might make it easier for bacteria to get up there and compromise your brain functioning. And apparently, picking your nose is one way to injure it.


So, I Need to Stop Nose Mining?

It’s a good idea.

Study author James A. St. John explained the connection in a TikTok video: “Picking your nose or plucking the hairs from your nose is probably not a good idea, particularly if you don’t want to get Alzheimer’s disease. If you damage the lining of the nose, you can increase the amount of bacteria that can go up into your brain,” he warned.

@griffith_uni Digging for gold, nose mining, caddyshacking.. whatever you call it, this universal habit might not be as harmless as once thought! Griffith Researcher Professor James St John explains why we should keep our fingers out of there...😳🤧#UniTok #Research ♬ original sound - Griffith University

“Once the bacteria get up into the olfactory nerve, it’s only a short journey, a very quick journey, for them to get up into the brain, where they can start causing these pathologies of Alzheimer’s disease,” St. John explained.

Followers left disappointed comments such as “am I supposed to just live with dry snot in my nose?” and “we literally can’t do anything.”

It may be reassuring to know that your nose-picking habits are probably not the biggest factor in your brain health. People also need to have a genetic susceptibility in order to get Alzheimer’s, study author Jenny A. K. Ekberg told MSN.

Still, if you get the urge to pick your nose (91 percent of people do it, according to one study), it may help to instead use saline spray or rinse on a dry nasal passage. This way, you can avoid sticking anything up there that might cause damage.