Snot! It’s a beautiful thing. It keeps your nose clean, provides endless entertainment, and is one of the funniest words in the English language. Aside from “booger”, of course, or the British counterpart “boogey”.
Boogers and snot are really called mucus (which isn’t as much fun to say, but it makes the grown-up scientists proud). Mucus is a wet, sticky, thick, slimy substance that coats the inside of your nose and nasal passages. It may not sound very impressive at the moment, but it actually plays an important role when you breathe. With every breath you take, you inhale germs, pollen, dust, dirt, sand, and even old skin cells. If not for mucus, all these things would travel on their merry way to your lungs, which would quickly become not-so-merry after being buried under all of that junk.
Mucus serves to trap these unwanted particles, and keeps your lungs safe and clean. Once the mucus has trapped them, tiny little hairs called cilia move the mucus to one of two places: the back of your throat, or the front of your nose. When the snot accumulates, it becomes a lump of stuff known as a booger. You can get rid of boogers by blowing them out of your nose into a tissue. If you pick at your nose too much, you could accidentally rub it raw and make it bleed.
It’s a good thing that snot is so helpful, because your body produces about a quart of it every day! It’s always in use, from keeping your lungs clean to getting rid of germs by running when you have a cold. Aside from making mucus, your nose houses one of the most important senses you have: smell.
Everyone has a distinct odor – we’re just not usually close enough to one another to smell it. But it’s true. You have a scent-fingerprint, which conveys information like what mood you’re in, what medicine you might be taking, and even what weather you were just in! Your nose is so sensitive to these factors that the average human is able to identify about 10,000 different smells. You can also remember these smells with more accuracy than you can remember a visual, like a photo or movie.
Snot actually helps you with this ability to smell. In the mucous membranes, which produce snot, there are things called smell receptors which deliver information to a nerve called the olfactory nerve. The information delivered by the receptors tells your brain what you smell by selecting a percentage of one of seven different “smell sensations”. Much like telling temperature on a scale of hot to cold, the nose identifies smells based on these groupings: musk, camphor, floral, ether, mint, putrid, or acrid. Every individual has a different preference as to what kind of smell they like (which is why vanity smells, like cologne, perfume, and other fragrances are so popular). A good smell is usually a subtle one, that doesn’t overwhelm your senses.
For more information (and jokes!) on snot, boogies, and mucus, you may want to take a whiff of these following sites. Happy smelling!