3 risks of blowing your nose too hard

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The nasal drainage that comes with a cold, the flu or a sinus infection is part of your body’s response to help you get over the illness.

You could let it drain naturally, but you’d probably be pretty miserable. Nasal irrigation with a neti pot or sinus rinse bottle can bring relief, but takes a little practice to get the hang of it. The most common option is to grab a tissue and blow the mucus out.

Blowing your nose is pretty safe. There are very few side effects but, if you blow really hard, you could cause other medical issues. Although these are rare, here’s a rundown on the potential consequences of blowing your nose too hard.

1. Nose bleeds

The object of the nose is to humidify and warm air. When the temperature drops, the absolute humidity lowers and the nose dries out. A dry nose causes the mucus membrane lining the nasal cavity to thin and blood vessels come to the surface. When you have a vessel that’s exposed to the dry air and you add pressure to it by blowing your nose, the stress to the vessel could cause a nose bleed. The good news is these types of nose bleeds usually stop on their own and don’t require medical attention.

2. Ear infection

Since the nasal cavity and ears are connected by the Eustachian tube, the potential exists that you could blow some of the bacteria from the nose into the ear, causing an infection. This is really rare. Usually the main reason people get ear infections when they have a cold is due to a lack of ventilation in the ear. Swelling in the nose causes the connection between the ear and nose to shut. Fluid can accumulate in the ear, leading to an infection.

3. Ear drum rupture

Again, the ear is connected to the nose via the Eustachian tube. If there is a substantial blockage in front of the nose and you blow really hard, it’s possible to suddenly generate high enough pressure to create a hole in the ear drum. This isn’t very common.

Alexander Farag is a head and neck surgeon and rhinologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.