According to a Western Sydney University review of dozens of studies related to the mechanism of neurological diseases, there is evidence that people who frequently pick their nose are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Published in the Biomolecules journal, the study found that when individuals pick their nose, certain germs are introduced into the nasal cavity, triggering the brain to produce amyloid beta proteins in defence.
Build-up of these proteins is harmful to the brain, and is known to be a textbook feature in the brains of people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
A study in 2022 by Griffith University also reached a similar conclusion.
“Neuroinflammation in [Alzheimer’s disease] might be partially caused by pathogens entering the brain through the olfactory system,” says the report by Western Sydney University.
“The olfactory system represents a plausible route for pathogen entry, given its direct anatomical connection to the brain and its involvement in the early stages of [Alzheimer’s disease].”
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia.
According to Dementia Australia, dementia is currently “the second leading cause of death of all Australians”, and the leading cause of death for women.
It is estimated that in 2024, more than 421,000 Australians are living with dementia, with most of those diagnosed being over the age of 65.
The introduction of potentially harmful germs to the nasal cavity is particularly prevalent when hands are “contaminated with soil and faeces”.
Even if hands are visually clean, they may be contaminated by microscopic matter.
The simplest prevention step is to practice frequent and effective hand hygiene using soap and water.
“We suggest these routine hygienic procedures be mandatory routine procedures for the incurable nose-picker.”
Or an individual can simply avoid picking their nose with their fingers, and instead use a clean tissue.