Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A snotty nose

My gorgeous niece has recently started at a child minders as her mother has gone back to work. Instantly my sister has discovered....a snotty nose....

I have 4 children. The oldest are 2 and 4. They both continually have a snotty nose. We live in Spain and they even have  a snotty nose throughout the summer. My 2 year olds first Catalan word was ‘mocos’ (snot) ‘mocos nose’ he says half in English, half in Catalan. So, is there something wrong with my children? Should I be worried about the constant stream of gack that they are forever sniffing back up their noses? 

There are several contributing factors to my children’s snotty noses. The first being that they aren’t that great at blowing their noses (they are getting better but they are quicker at sniffing than I am with the hankie.) Hence, the snot hangs around (going backwards and forwards like a slimy yo-yo) rather than being neatly cleaned away and deposited of.

The reason that most children have a snotty nose in the first place is that they are fighting off infections. The nose makes clear mucus that helps to wash away the germs and protects the lungs from invading bugs. When the immune system starts making cells such as white blood cells to fight the infection, the snot will turn white or yellow. Snot is green either because it has bacteria in it, or because certain enzymes which help fight off bugs contain a green pigment.

So why do children have so many snotty noses? Children have immature immune systems. When the come across a bug, they often won’t have met it before and have to learn how to fight it off. Generally, the more bugs they learn about, the better their immune system is. A mature immune system (i.e. an adult one) has learnt about lots of bugs. It has met them before and knows how to fight them off. So when an adult comes across a bug they may not even know that their immune system is busy defending them from attack. Children come across lots of new bugs and it seems as if they constantly have a runny nose or are unwell in some way. Actually, it’s probably lots of different bugs and different infections but they run into each other, seeming like one long snotty nose.

So, no, I’m not worried about my children’s runny nose (other than it is a bit embarrassing when Spanish people tell them to blow their nose in English). That’s not to say there aren’t other reasons why some children have snotty noses, it’s just I know my children have the ‘common garden variety of snotty nose’ and one day they’ll grow out of it (whether that is before or after they become adept at blowing remains to be seen.)

See also:
Babies and Colds (a quick guide)