Nose-picking health workers more likely to catch COVID, study suggests

Hospital workers who pick their noses are more likely to catch COVID, a new study suggests.

Researchers said hospitals should offer staff educational sessions about the habit and consider recommending against nose picking in infection prevention guidelines.

Academics from the Netherlands examined data on COVID infection rates among 219 hospital workers in Amsterdam between March and October 2020.

They also conducted a retrospective survey about nose picking and other potential behaviours or physical features which could pose an infection risk.

Some 16%, or 34 people, tested positive during the study period.

Meanwhile, the majority (85%) admitted to nose picking at least "incidentally", with men and younger people more likely to admit to the habit.

Doctors were the staff members most likely to report nose picking followed by support staff and then nurses.

The authors found that COVID infections were more common among nose pickers compared to those who refrained - 17.3% of nose pickers tested positive compared to 5.9% of those who did not pick their noses.

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No association was found between nail-biting, wearing glasses, or having a beard, and COVID infection, they said.

Writing in the PLOS One journal, the authors wrote: "Nose picking among HCW is associated with an increased risk of contracting a SARS-CoV-2 infection.

"We therefore recommend health care facilities to create more awareness, e.g. by educational sessions or implementing recommendations against nose picking in infection prevention guidelines."