Picking your nose can spread pneumonia, warn experts

David Harding
Comedian David Walliams (PA)
Comedian David Walliams (PA)

Picking your nose can cause pneumonia, scientists have discovered.

A study by researchers at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Royal Liverpool Hospital is thought to be the first ever to demonstrate a link between picking – or wiping a nose – and the spread of pneumonia.

The dangerous bacteria which causes pneumonia can be spread via hands, they found.

Previously, it was thought that the bacteria was spread only through such things as coughs and sneezes.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (PA)
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (PA)

The research is thought to be particularly important for parents with experts recommending it is another reason to make sure their children’s hands stay clean.

Published in the European Respiratory Journal, it suggests that keeping hands and toys clean could help to protect infants

Pneumococcal infection is estimated to be responsible for 1.3 million deaths in children under five each year.


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‘Pneumococcal infection is a major cause of death around the world, and it is estimated that it is responsible for 1.3 million deaths in children under five years annually,’ said lead researcher Dr Victoria Connor, a clinical research fellow at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Royal Liverpool Hospital.

‘The elderly and people with other causes of impaired immunity, such as chronic illness, are also at an increased risk of pneumococcal infections.’

She added: ‘Having a clearer understanding of how the bacteria is spread will allow for better advice on how transmission can be reduced, so that there is greater prevention of pneumococcal infections.’

Her team found that bacteria could transfer from hands to the nose whether people picked, poked or just rubbed their nose with the back of their hand.

Professor Tobias Welte, President of the European Respiratory Society, added: ‘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.’