As unsightly or awkward as they may be, your nose hairs play an important role in keeping you healthy. And there’s a very good reason why you shouldn’t pluck them out.
Business Insider’s video team chatted with Dr. Erich Voigt, an otolaryngologist (meaning he treats diseases and disorders related to the ear, nose, and throat) at New York University. He described what’s going on in your nose with the hairs that filter out all the stuff you breath in every day.
To start, there are two kinds of nose hairs that are key here: the ones you can see and want to pluck, called the vibrissae, and the microscopic cilia, which are responsible for filtering mucus and moving it to the back of the nose, where it can go into the stomach.
The vibrissae, which hang out near the front, are responsible for keeping some of the larger particles from making it that far.
If you pluck those hairs, germs and particles near the follicles can get inside and cause an infection.
He described the concept of a “danger triangle,” or the area on the face between your mouth and nose that’s susceptible to passing infections on to the brain.
That’s because the same veins that carry blood out of the nose meet up with veins that carry blood out from the brain as well. If those germs make it all the way back there, Voigt said, it could lead to conditions like meningitis (in which the protective membranes on the spinal cord and brain become inflamed) or brain abscess (another type of inflammation and swelling that happens in the brain, related to an infection).
These types of infections are rare, but they can cause serious trouble for people with weakened immune systems. And, depending on the infection type (bacterial meningitis, for example), the infections can be extreme and in some cases deadly.
So the next time you’re considering plucking a stray hair, consider trimming it instead; so long as you don’t get too close to the skin inside your nose, it could keep the “danger triangle” from becoming a full-blown problem.
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