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August 03, 2023

Nearly 9 of 10 health care workers admit to picking their noses – and they're more likely to get COVID-19, study finds

The habit deserves greater consideration as potential health hazard, the researchers said

Picking your nose isn't just gross — it can also increase your chances of contracting COVID-19.

According to new research, nose-picking was associated with a higher risk of catching COVID-19 among health care workers. Roughly 17% of survey participants who admitted they occasionally picked their nose later contracted coronavirus. Of those who said they never did, 6% got sick.

Perhaps the most alarming statistic was the percentage of health care workers who confirmed they did explore their naval cavities. A whopping 84.5% said they picked their nose at least monthly, if not weekly or daily. The behavior was slightly more common among men, and the median age of pickers was 44.

"Nose picking deserves more consideration as a potential health hazard," the researchers wrote, suggesting explicit recommendations against it in COVID-19 prevention guidelines.

The purpose of the study, published in PLOS One on Wednesday, was to see if certain physical or behavioral factors could contribute to infection — particularly among health care workers, who already have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. The researchers also studied nail biting, but they did not find a significant association between that habit and infection. Health care workers who wore glasses contracted COVID-19 at a slightly lower rate than those who did not, though it was not statistically significant, and there was no association between male workers with beards and a higher risk of getting sick.

The study sample was admittedly small, with only 219 health care workers responding to the survey. Regardless, if you're an MD or RN, it's probably best to break that bad habit.

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