Snot – like it or not?

Even if you do not thinks so, snot, called by the wise people mucus, is our best friend. Without snot lining of our nose, sinuses, mouth, throat, lungs and stomach would look like this:

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In normal circumstances we produce around 1 liter of it per day. Yes, all of us, every day, without really noticing. Most of it simply trickles down our throat. When do we notice? Well, I guess when it goes much beyond that 1 liter.

Let’s have a look at :

  • what it actually is
  • what it does
  • and why does the system go into override when we get an infection

Hopefully at the end of it, we will hate it a tiny bit less…

Snot is a ‘colloid’ – what a glamorous term, right? But in household terms it is a sticky goo, with all sorts of particles floating in it: enzymes, proteins, salts. It helps keep the incoming air humid and it is there to protect us against fungi, bacteria, viruses and any uninvited particles that might get inhaled. I like the example that it works a little it like a flypaper:

It does help us on the toilet as well, if you know what I mean.

So what happens when we get sick?

First of all our system tries to flush away the intruder. The more flushing gets going, the more snot we produce. At the same time the body will kick off with a respiratory bust. In simple words our defense soldiers, white blood cells will release their weapons (chemicals) which are iron rich. This is why our snot turns yellow and green in the end. A nice mixture of dead white cells,used up enzymes and killed bacteria.

One of the common and unpleasant infections is sinusitis (tell me about it…). When it is bacteria’s fault, they actually might be squatting in there having a party, however very often it is simply due to a general viral infection that makes all air pathways swollen and blocked. Sinuses’ role is to regulate the pressure inside our head, so if the doorways are swell shut, it can be very unpleasant as some of us know very well.

Generally it is recommended to get it out. One situation when we should be more cautious about it is when we have bad viral infection turning into sinusitis: in that case if we try to get rid of snot, our body will keep on producing more, which… will make the symptoms worse.

Some people believe that the color of snot will help you differentiate between a viral and bacterial infection: from what I have read, I would not believe that.

Antihistamines are often used to reduce snot production. While having an allergic reaction it does make sense to look into a treatment, however I would not be so sure if it is a great idea to slow the mucus production when having a bacterial infection. Do we really want to mess around with our defense system?

And one more thing to finish off this sexy topic.

Do you know why we get our nose runny when it is cold outside? This explanation is as logical as it gets: the little ‘lashes’ (cilia) that are responsible for swiping snot away towards our throat get a bit stiff in low temperatures. If the snot is not going backward, you know which way it is going to come out… 🙂





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