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If you must blow, do it gently

Nose-blowing is a given when we're congested, but research shows it has its downside.

Blowing your nose seems like such a simple thing. But, according to two researchers who conducted a study recently, there are some undesirable side effects when it's not done properly.

Dr. Owen Hendley, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, and Dr. Birgit Winther of the University of Aarhus in Denmark observed several adult volunteers who had a dense liquid dye (which would show up on X-ray images) squirted into their noses.

They then asked some of the volunteers to blow their noses, some to cough and some to whiff a chemical to make them sneeze.

CT scanning showed that the nose-blowers blew a lot of dye up and into the recesses of their sinuses rather than out their nostrils. That didn't happen to any of the sneezers or coughers.

This has led researchers to suspect that nose-blowing may increase the risk of sinus swelling and infection by filling the spaces with germs and inflammatory secretions.

Previous research had shown that when adults have colds, they probably blow their noses on average 45 times a day, according to a story in the Oregonian newspaper in Portland.

Dr. Lawrence Blumberg, an ear, nose and throat specialist at White-Wilson Medical Center in Fort Walton Beach, said that when you do blow, pinching the nose is not a good idea.

"The more you pinch your nose and blow, the higher the pressures will build," Blumberg said.

That means infectious "bugs" might go into your sinuses.

Another culprit along the road to worse infections is those dirty handkerchiefs that men sometimes use all day long. Blumberg recommends disposable tissues.

Also, he said, "Wash your hands after you blow."

Children may have less of a problem with the stuff going up their sinuses because "they haven't figured out how to blow. They also have large adenoids, and because of this, they may end up doing the opposite of a sniff," he said.

Kids are lucky in another way.

"Their sinuses aren't fully developed, and so there are fewer spots for infection to go to," Blumberg said.