Kids are prone to doing things that are gross, like playing with dirt or biting their toys. Well, it’s just part of growing up right? Kids will be kids after all. Usually, their immune systems are adept at handling the mischevious antics that they get up to. But, there is one surprising thing their bodies might be unable to handle: nose picking.
If you’ve been around kids, you probably have seen them picking their noses. But why is this so harmful to them? It can cause pneumonia. Yes, you heard that right. Pneumonia — one of the deadliest diseases in Singapore. New research, published in the European Respiratory Journal, showed how bad it really is. In a trial, a group of adult participants had bacteria applied on their hands and were then given four tasks: “wet sniff,” “dry sniff”, “wet poke”, and “dry poke”, to duplicate the effects and actions of picking one’s nose.
What they found was that pneumococcus, the bacteria most commonly associated with the disease, can be transmitted manually via the nose and hands. The participants were as likely to get the bacteria in their nose regardless of whether the bacteria was dry or not. However, “wet sniff’ and “wet poke” transmitted more of the bacteria.
Pneumonia, most commonly spread from the bacteria pneumococcus, causes inflammation in the air sacs in your lungs and fills them with fluid or pus, making it difficult to breathe. It is extremely dangerous if not treated. While pneumonia is more common among the elderly, everyone is at risk. It is contagious via inhalation of airborne droplets from a sneeze or a cough, so it is important to teach your kid to be cautious. According to the Singapore General Hospital, it ranks only second to cancer as a cause of death in 2014, accounting for 19 per cent of deaths in Singapore.
“This study has shown that the hands can spread this bacteria as well and objects like mobile phones or children’s toys could also be adding to the spread of this bacteria,” Victoria Connor, a clinical research fellow at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Royal Liverpool Hospital, told AFP.
“It might not be realistic to get children to stop picking, poking and rubbing their noses,” she said. “But for parents … ensuring good hand hygiene and cleaning of toys or surfaces would likely reduce transmission, and reduce the risk of developing pneumococcal infection such as pneumonia.”
While the study was done on adults, Connor said that the main lesson was for parents of young children.
“This pilot study is the first to confirm that pneumococcus bacteria can be spread through direct contact, rather than just through breathing in airborne bacteria.” Professor Tobias Welte, President of the European Respiratory Society and not involved in the study, said according to a report by EurekAlert. “For clinicians, the findings reinforce the message that we must promote rigorous hand hygiene and basic infection control measures such as avoidance of sharing food, drink and mobile phones, in order to potentially reduce the transmission of respiratory bacterial pathogens such as pneumococcus.
The emphasis on personal hygiene cannot be ignored. Despite being kids, it is essential to teach them the importance of taking care of themselves when you are not around. Even though you give your kids a degree of independence, you should always watch out for any unhealthy behaviour or habits that might form.
By Muhd Farhan