Cold and flu season is here, which means lots and lots of snot.
If you’re sick and experiencing nasal congestion, it can be tempting to forcefully blow your nose to get rid of runny mucus. But according to experts, blowing your nose too hard could potentially do damage — both minor and major.
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“The issue with blowing your nose too hard is that air and pressure can go into places that you don’t necessarily want it to go into,” said Dr. Vincent Lin, an otolaryngologist and surgeon at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto.
Lin said one of these places is the ears, as the pressure can cause them to become blocked — a similar sensation to when an airplane takes off and your ears “pop.”
“The eustachian tube basically connects your ear to the back of your nose and allows you to change pressure,” he explained to Global News, adding that the tube is a one-way valve.
In order to help alleviate that pressure, swallowing and yawning can open up the valve and allow air to move into the ear, he said.
What are some serious risks of aggressive nose blowing?
While blocked ears is an annoying feeling, it’s rarely serious unless you have a faulty valve in your ear, Lin said.
“For people who have a faulty valve and blow their nose really hard, they blow air up the tube and into the ear, the eardrum can pop out … and can cause what’s called barotrauma,” he said.
“This means you can get very, very dizzy all of a sudden and it can sometimes cause permanent hearing and balance loss.”
While rare, there have also been reported cases of orbital blowout fractures from nose blowing. Lin said he’s seen patients who’ve developed meningitis from aggressive blowing as well.
But in the case of meningitis, however, people often have an underlying health problem and the nose blowing is what introduces the bacteria that becomes meningitis.
In other words, the serious repercussions of nose blowing are not common, Lin said, and most people are likely to just block their ears.
How to properly blow your nose
While we often reach for a tissue and blow both nostrils at once, some people suggest blowing one nostril at a time to help alleviate pressure.
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But Lin said that the single nostril method isn’t really necessary, and the best thing to do is blow your nose gently.
“You want to try to avoid doing anything in extreme, so you don’t want to blow super, super hard,” he said.
“If you blow gently, everything will clear just as it would blowing your nose hard.”
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