You May Think It’s Funny, but It’s Snot
The average person produces about 34 ounces of snot a day
Ever wonder why nasal mucus is called snot? It may sound rude, but it comes from the Old English word, gesnot, which dates back to the late 14th century and literally means nasal mucus. Snot has the same etymology as snout and snite, which means to “blow or wipe the nose.” It wasn’t until 1809 that it was used as an insult. We may laugh at both the word and the idea of snot but, trust me, breathing is better because we have boogers.
Snot is a vital part of our sinonasal system (see below). To understand its role, we have to first understand how the nose and sinuses work.
Our noses and sinuses are holes in our heads that make our skulls lighter. (The average head already weighs eleven pounds. Imagine how huge our necks would have to be to hold up something heavier!) The average person has eight sinuses and one nasal cavity divided into two parts by a septum. They are lined with a very intricate mucosa that has three functions. It warms, humidifies, and filters the air we breathe. Although you can take in a bigger volume of air through your mouth, oxygen is absorbed into your lungs four times more easily if you breathe in through your nose.
For the sinonasal lining to do its job, it makes snot.
Snot is the slimy, sticky goo that traps the dust, dirt, and allergens you breathe in. It is made of 95% water and a combination of lipids, proteins, antibodies, and salts. Tiny hair-like projections on the lining, called cilia, move snot towards the back of your nose and down your throat. The average person makes about 34 ounces of snot a day–the equivalent of two grande coffees from Starbucks. Kind of like caffeine addicts, we swallow most of it without even realizing it.
If you have allergies or a cold, you make even more snot. The inflammation also slows your cilia so it spills forward to be claimed by Kleenex. Excess snot can also drip down the back of your nose–the dreaded post nasal drip–which causes throat…