the lowdown on snot -- 7/25/18

Today's selection -- from ASAP Science by Mitchell Moffit & Greg Brown. The facts on snot:

"Not to be confused with phlegm, which is produced in other parts of the respiratory system, snot is a liquid secre­tion produced in the nose. This nasal mucus is made mostly of water, along with proteins, carbohydrates, salt, and cells. Snot's sticky texture enables it to trap particles of dust, dirt. and bacteria to prevent infection in your airways. Once caught, these particles are expelled by sneezing, blowing your nose, or, more likely ... being eaten! Yup, millions of tiny hairs in your nasal passage push the snot to the back of your throat, where you swallow it, leaving it to your stomach acid to destroy the unwanted visitors.

"Fancy a taste? You may have noticed a lot of kids picking their noses and chowing down, but surely it's bad for them, right? Not quite! Researchers have theorized that nasal mucus may contain a sugary taste to entice young people to eat it. In a society devoid of dirt and germs, and increasing allergies and disease, eating boogers may actually be a way for children to expose themselves to pathogens, which may ultimately help build up their immune system. A healthy nose pumps out around half a liter of snot a day. If you have a cold, a virus infects your body and moves into the mucous membranes of your cells and multiplies. Your body responds by inflaming the mucous cells, pumping more blood to your nose and leaking more water through the cells-hence your runny nose. Simultaneously, your body sends white blood cells to attack the virus with potent chemicals or engulf it entirely.

"Along with the antiseptic enzymes in snot, which directly kill bacteria, there is an abundance of proteins called mucins, which are designed to prevent bacterial growth. Mucins have a dense sugar coating that allows them to hold water and create a gel-like consistency, which keeps bacteria from moving around and clumping together. By separating individual bacterial cells, they can't work together. As scien­tists begin to look more closely at these mucins, there is a potential for use in products like toothpaste and even hospital surfaces, where large amounts of bacteria grow together.

"Notice color in your snot? It can tell you a lot! Small amounts of red blood generally mean too much rubbing, blowing, or picking, while green snot generally indicates a viral or bacterial infection. The green color is part of your immune response and comes from iron present in snot enzymes. In fact, these are the same enzymes that create the green color of wasabi, which was originally used in Japanese cuisine to combat bacterial contamination of raw foods.

"Clear snot, on the other hand, generally means your nose is healthy. So raise a finger in honor of our gooey friend snot, which in spite of all the flack, has always got your back!"



Mitchell Moffit


AsapSCIENCE: Answers to the World's Weirdest Questions, Most Persistent Rumours, and Unexplained Phenomena




Copyright 2015 by AsapSCIENCE Inc.


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