Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mucus is a Savior

boogerImage by blatantgizmo via Flickr

I should probably start by saying I am not a medical professional and this post does not constitute medical advice. That said, I am now going to comment on medical advice I got that turned out to be not so helpful and my own personal Internet research that provides an explanation why. Which means I've met up with Dr. Google again and my elicit affair continues...

So after my stomach virus, I went to the doctor because I was pretty sure I had pink eye. I figured it might be viral since the symptoms weren't too pronounced, but wanted a doctor to look at it anyway. I also decided to mention some issues I was having with ear stuffiness and nasal congestion as well and ask if I needed a different allergy medication.

This all necessitated a look down my throat and up my nose, after which the doctor exclaimed, "Hmm, you have some boogers."


Much to my surprise, I did not know that the word booger was a medical term. I immediately felt like a little kid in the pediatrician's office. I mean, doctors have looked up my nose more times than I can remember during my adult years and yet no one has even mentioned my boogers until now.

Just to be clear, I know I have boogers, I just never thought they were medically relevant or worth mentioning. Needless to say, I felt completely embarrassed that my secret was out and being discussed to me by a doctor. After all, wasn't there a more dignified medical terms to use in place of the word booger?

The ensuing barrage of advice was all about booger eradication using nasal irrigation. I left with a recommendation for a specific device and instructions to use it twice a day. So I trotted off to the big chain pharmacy after my appointment to pick up prescriptions and the booger eradicator.

I came home, read the instructions and started using the nasal irrigator After using it for several day, I got lazy and stopped. Then a couple days later, I came down with a pretty nasty cold, a coincidence that after some consideration really wasn't one.

You see, I never knew that mucus, the building block of boogers, is actually a combination of powerful antimicrobial agents that combat viruses, bacteria and fungi. So when you wash mucus out of your nose and sinuses, you are leaving them vulnerable to attack, especially if you free some microbes from their mucus entrapment in the process. In fact, Dr. Talal Nsouli, former allergist to President Clinton and clinical professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine, found that regular daily use of nasal irrigation resulted in a 62% increase in recurrent sinus infection.

So I think clearing out my mucus set the stage for a full-blown viral infection, drastically reducing my own natural defenses against such an intruder. Which then made me wonder, did the doctor miss class the day they discussed mucus? More importantly, since she diagnosed a viral infection in my eye, was it really smart to suggest getting rid of my mucus when clearly I was having a microbe issue in the general area of my ears, nose and sinuses?

I've learned my lesson: mucus is a savior. Getting rid of it on a daily basis is just a bad idea. Nasal irrigation probably isn't such a good thing, despite what Dr. Oz said on Oprah, and if I am really bothered by mucus I should chose remedies that thin it out rather than aggressively wash it all away.

Once again, it is clear that my body knows what it is doing and I need to just get out of its way and let it do its job.

Oh, yeah, and doctors don't always know what they are talking about, especially when it comes to boogers.

Gotten any bad advice from a doctor lately? Did something come out of your doctor's mouth that really embarrassed you? Dish about it when you leave me a comment. Then check out the related articles for more information and a good laugh...


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