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Nose Picking among Healthcare Workers may have been a Risk Factor for COVID-19: A New Research Study

The transmission patterns of COVID-19 may have had unexpected conduits in healthcare environments, suggests a new study from researchers based in the Netherlands. The operative variable in their investigation: the seemingly innocent habit of nose picking among hospital employees. The research results recommend infusing more education for hospital staff about the implications of this habit and considering the explicit discouragement of nose picking within institutional infection prevention protocols.

The researchers conducted their analysis in Amsterdam, focusing on COVID-19 infection rates among 219 health workers between March and October 2020. The study straddled various physical attributes, behaviors, and habits among the staff, cross-examining their potential role in raising infection risks. These factors included nail-biting, wearing glasses, nose-picking habits, and even having a beard.

Of the total participants, 16% (equating to 34 individuals) tested positive for the virus during the study period. Interestingly, a significant 85% conceded to picking their noses at least occasionally. This behavior seemed more prevalent in men than women and was more commonly reported among younger age groups. Among hospital staffers, physicians were reportedly the most frequent nose pickers followed by support staff and finally nurses.

The researchers noted a noteworthy correlation between nose pickers and higher COVID-19 positive rates. Specifically, about 17.3% of those who admitted nose picking tested positive, compared to just 5.9% of those who abstained from the tick. Contrastingly, they found no significant association between other scrutinized behaviors – nail-biting, wearing glasses, or maintaining a beard, and the chance of a COVID-19 infection.

Their findings, published in the PLOS One journal, concluded: ‘Nose picking among Health Care Workers is associated with an increased risk of contracting a SARS-CoV-2 infection. We, therefore, recommend health care facilities to heighten their awareness, for example, by sponsoring educational sessions or introducing recommendations against nose picking in infection prevention guidelines.’


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