Say It Isn't So

The New York Times

February 10, 2009
Never Blow Your Nose When You Have a Cold


Blowing your nose to alleviate stuffiness may be second nature, but some people argue it does no good, reversing the flow of mucus into the sinuses and slowing the drainage.
Counterintuitive, perhaps, but research shows it to be true.

To test the notion, Dr. J. Owen Hendley and other pediatric infectious disease researchers at the University of Virginia conducted CT scans and other measurements as subjects coughed, sneezed and blew their noses. In some cases, the subjects had an opaque dye dripped into their rear nasal cavities.

Coughing and sneezing generated little if any pressure in the nasal cavities. But nose blowing generated enormous pressure — “equivalent to a person’s diastolic blood pressure reading,” Dr. Hendley said — and propelled mucus into the sinuses every time. Dr. Hendley said it was unclear whether this was harmful, but added that during sickness it could shoot viruses or bacteria into the sinuses, and possibly cause further infection.

The proper method is to blow one nostril at a time and to take decongestants, said Dr. Anil Kumar Lalwani, chairman of the department of otolaryngology at the New York University Langone Medical Center. This prevents a buildup of excess pressure.


Blowing your nose can create a buildup of excess pressure in sinus cavities.
Would everyone please go wash your hands?


  1. Yellow alert!

    Yellow alert!

    This important message is brought to you by the Department of Otolaryngology Security.

  2. Thanks Jeremiah, a real treat...even though current otolaryngological research shows sneezing would not blow that kid's head off, but blowing both nostrils at the same time would.

    My right nostril is clogged and dripping, but my left is as clear as a bell!