Fretting About Snot

School is in full swing.  My kids are near other tykes for eight plus hours a day – it’s glorious – except for the thoughts of cooties and boogers that dance in my maternal head.  What if my kid gets sick and has to stay home?  Not only will they fall behind in their schoolwork I’ll have to spend more time with them both nursing them and helping with said work. Ugh. Why does everyone want their mommies – and only mommy – when they’re expelling body fluids from their noses and/or mouths?  

Anyhoo… as the weather is weirdly warm and humid which negatively affects my allergies and I’ve just heard about a case of strep throat, I thought it worth reviewing snot and when to worry about it.

There is a key to snot according to Nina L. Shapiro, Director, Pediatric Otolaryngology Professor of Head and Neck Surgery, UCLA School of Medicine whose brain – not nose – I picked recently.  Hopefully the results of her wisdom will help all of us understand when it’s time to worry that you or your tyke might be actually ill versus allergic

Clearly It’s an Allergy

“Allergic mucus is clear because the histamine receptors in the cells of the nasal mucosa react to a given allergen, and trigger the cells to produce more of what they normally secrete to get rid of the offending particles,” explained Shapiro.  So check your child’s tissue and if its content is clear, then give ‘em an antihistamine (pending doctor’s approval – I’m a writer not a doctor, people) and if cleared (pun intended) ship off your properly medicated progeny to school. Fires throughout our state are not helping any of us with airway issues and Santa Ana winds are sure to start stirring up trouble too.   The weather is so wacky that even if neither your or other members of your household have sniffled until now, it still could be an allergy if the mucus is clear.  Really.

Clouds are Forming

Cloudy and vile-colored nasal secretions don’t necessarily mean you have major cooties but since they do indicate that air is not flowing through your nose and sinuses, further investigation is required.  “If you have a minor cold – one which causes excess mucus but not all night nose blowing but which forces you to sleep breathing through your mouth, you might notice that your boogers are darker first thing in the morning,” said Shapiro, who has two children and thus can speak ‘mom’ and ‘medicine’, “that’s because your boogers get condensed while you sleep.  Your nose is stuffy so you have to breathe through your mouth thus there is no ‘free flow’ of air in your nose and sinuses.  Thus the oxygen deprived snot thickens.” While a gross image, it is useful to know – just because there is vile colored stuff coming out of your or your child’s nose doesn’t mean you should run to the doctor for an antibiotic [colds are caused by viruses; antibiotics don’t work on viruses so if you have a cold you will simply be taking unnecessary medication which is never good.] but you might want to keep your kid home from school or you home from work so that you don’t infect others.  Really, keeping your kid home for a day is better then letting them get sicker.  And, if your kid infects others every other parent will blame you for all future illnesses.  And, if both you and your kid(s) are home sick together you have every excuse to just watch TV together before both of you are forced to complete your work for the day.

But if You’re Cloudy with Other Symptoms…

“Bacterial infections are usually accompanied by other signs, such as headache or facial pressure, a ‘wet’ (sputum producing) cough, fever, malaise, eye pain, puffy [aka periorbital swelling in medical speak] and red [aka erythema in doc talk] eyes,” Shapiro said. When you have this whole batch of symptoms, a visit to a medical professional might be in order because you might have cooties that require more than chicken soup to cure.

Regardless, however, of what is causes your nose to run, wash your hands often even if there is no risk of your sharing cooties, it’s just gross to touch someone immediately after blowing your nose.

For more information on Nina Shapiro:

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