Hey there, Adventurers. Today you’ve injected me with some great questions! I’m thrilled to return the favor and you with answers! As a skeleton, I don't have any muscle tissue or bloodstreams to receive a vaccine through, so while I may not understand your experience getting a shot, I can tell you all about them anyway! I am Dr. B after all. I also don’t have a nose, so I can’t pick it like some of you do (c’mon, be honest!). But, I can tell you all about your favorite topic - loogies, boogies, nose gold... what else do the kids call it these days? Ah! Yes! Boogers! Snot! You might think they’re gross, but boogers and snot actually play really important roles in keeping us healthy.
Why do we ge the flu shot every year?
Adventurers have asked me this question many times, usually adding an extra question: “Didn’t we treat the flu last year?” Let’s break it down:
Yes, we did treat the flu last year. However, the flu from last year is not the same as the flu this year. You heard that right! There are new flu viruses that are resistant to past vaccines that pop up all the time. Flu viruses can adapt to fight against our vaccines, making older vaccines less effective. New flu shots are cooked up each year to aid our immune system's resistanceto these new flu viruses.
Let’s get into the details. Last year’s flu vaccine was not designed to protect you against this year'sflu virus. In fact, last year's vaccine actually containedsome of last year's flu virus (either dead or in a weakened state), which is why it's effective at protecting you from last year's virus. A small amount of a virus in a vaccine makes your body produce antibodies to fight that specific virus.
Despite lacking brains --I should know, I'm only a skeleton!-- viruses can be pretty darn smart. When a new virus enters your body, it might have a little battle with the antibodies produced from an old vaccine. However, because the antibodies specifically target the old flu, the new flu can gain the upper hand. That calls for reinforcements. The most effective support we have are new vaccines specifically made to wage war against new flu viruses and old flu viruses that have evolved.
What is snot?
Snot and boogers are not the same exact thing, but they are closely related. A quick way to think about the difference is that snot is wet, and boogers are mostly dry. In fact, boogers are simply made when snot collects pathogens, dust, and other material, dries and becomes hard. Ewww!
Scientists refer to snot as nasal mucusand boogers as dried nasal mucus. Nasal mucus plays an important role in your immune system - it makes the nasal cavity moist, and it warms the air you breathe through your nose. Keeping the nasal cavity moist is essential because a dry nasal cavity can lead to sinus infections and general discomfort. Keeping the air you breathe warm and humid is part of how snot filters the air you breathe.
What needs to be filtered from the air? When we inhale oxygen, we also breathe in other unwanted things that are in the air. Some of these things can be chemicals, toxins, and microscopic bacteria or viruses. The lungs are delicate and can get infected or damaged by inhaling certain compounds. Snot protects you from these potentially harmful compounds, not only by warming the air you breathe but also by literally catching them! That’s where boogers come from - boogers are essentially dried clumps of germs and other stuff you don't want in your body (gross, right?).