Mind & Body

Blowing Your Nose When You Have a Cold Isn't Helping

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You know that gross wad of snotty tissues that piles up when you have a cold? There's no need for it. Turns out, blowing your nose when you have a cold is a bad idea.

But, Mom Always Said ...

For anyone whose mother shoved a tissue in their face whenever they had the sniffles, this will come as a surprise: Blowing your nose isn't a great idea when you have a cold — or any time, for that matter. "Blowing your nose with too much force can actually cause breakage of vessels and undue stress," allergist and immunologist Purvi Parikh, M.D. told Men's Health. It can also force bacteria and other detritus back up into your sinuses, putting you at greater risk of infection.

Mucus isn't even the real reason your nose feels stuffy. The stuffy sensation is just a signal that the blood vessels in your nose are swollen. (Gross but true.) You do produce more mucus when you're sick, but only a little more. And even if you blow some of it out on occasion, your body just replenishes the disgusting supply. Resistance is futile. (Truly, your body loves making mucus. Even in on a normal, healthy day, you make enough mucus to fill a 20-ounce bottle!)

It's always the underlying sickness — typically the common cold, sinusitis, or hay fever — that's the real problem. Mucus is a sideshow, and trying to blow it all out can cause more problems than it solves.

So, What Should I Do?

Blowing your nose isn't forbidden. Long-term, it doesn't solve a lot, but it can give you a brief respite from your symptoms. Just make sure to do it properly. You should blow your nostrils one at a time, Dr. Anil Kumar Lalwani, chairman of the department of otolaryngology at the New York University Langone Medical Center, told the New York Times. Don't blow too forcefully, either. It's the vigor that sparks the issues we mentioned above — in rare but documented cases, overenthusiastic nose-blowing has even led to eye socket injuries, esophagus ruptures, and other medical issues. But with a safe nose-blowing technique and some decongestants, you should stay decently comfortable through your nasal troubles.

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Debunk some medical flim-flam in "Hype: A Doctor's Guide to Medical Myths, Exaggerated Claims, and Bad Advice - How to Tell What's Real and What's Not" by Nina Shapiro M.D., Kristin Loberg. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Mae Rice September 1, 2018

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